My Wife’s Therapist Poem
My wife’s therapist is explaining how counterproductive anger is.
There’s a difference between asserting oneself and aggression, she says.
Flying into tirades can cause others to withdraw, and then we can’t negotiate
With them anymore.
She illustrates her point.
I have to get into a new office, right away, she says.
Yeah, I agree, this place is a mess.
Fixing her hair with both hands, she continues:
At the meeting to sign the new lease, the other party makes impossible demands
And suddenly walks out, slams the door, leaves.
I want to blow up, Angelo, but I don’t.
Do I know what her response should be? She asks suddenly.
I shake my head.
She doesn’t scream fuck you or kick ass, I bet.
I examine my feelings, Angelo, and then I cry. She leans toward me:
The realtor will set up another meeting later in the week and I’ll get to try again.
My wife is breathing deeply so I know she is being moved.
Do I understand how this example is useful?
Sure. Definitely. It’s clear to me.
How do I feel about it? What changes can I make in myself to show what I’ve learned?
I stand up, smack my head, and grasp everything she’s been leading me to.
I’m transformed by her analysis.
I grasp her hands in my hands:
Ann, would you like me to go over there and fuck with them for you?
I could yell and curse. I could make them treat you good.
I could scare the piss out of them.
No, she says, crossing and uncrossing her legs. Let’s begin again.
Anger is hurtful. Anger is bad.
I nod my head.
first published in The Massachusetts Review, vol. XL, no. 3, Autumn 1999
also from A Hurricane Is