Equinimity

The Hypothetical Analyst

My hypothetical analyst has his hands full of my underwear. He puts my underwear in a pile and sleeps on it.

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I Gave a Prize to a Horse for Being So Literary

I never really wanted to learn to ride a horse. I didn’t want to learn a sport. I wanted to sit on a horse. I wanted to be around horses and feel their straw-hair in my palm and have their musky hot-dirt smell linger on my jeans. I learned to never walk behind a horse without resting my arm on its backside. Never sneak around a horse. As a child I drew five hundred horses. Horses in fields and farms and forests and factories and Finland. My sister and I would watch the horse races. We were the horses racing against each other. If there was a white horse with grey spots I was that one. Our fists were our hooves galloping against the carpet. Our hooves were our knuckles, dry, numb, and red from the friction. My analyst’s armpits smell like a horse I knew. A horse named Ginger. My first lover was as big as a horse. What have people seen of naked horses and naked women. The black sweat on a horse’s back when you remove the saddle. The dry foam in the black corners of the horse’s mouth when you remove the bit.

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My Analyst Sounds Like Donald Barthelme

What is it like to have a Mother-mother? It is bliss, bliss like those mornings you describe with an edge of melancholy, it is bittersweet, knowing that there are no true Mothers. Mothers have facets, facts and facets, addictions, ailments, aspirations, attitudes, and antagonisms, that make them persons, united only by their guilt as deep as the Mariana trench and not, as is commonly believed, by love for their children. The souls of mothers blindly oscillate between dread and regret, their souls are blind naked mole rats navigating the black corridors of earth. But the souls of fathers—fathers are birds. Always birds. Or sometimes lions or horses that resemble lions. People used to imagine a future where fetuses would be grown externally in some marvelous synthetic womb and raised by a community, eliminating this Mother problem altogether, which engenders everyone with a lifelong sense of loss and a desire to return to a state of moksha or nirvana or satori which is nothing but a desire for a kind of catatonic undifferentiated state of consciousness which is nothing more than a death wish, a desire to return to the black womb. Under this theory, to know no Mother, experientially or conceptually, is to be free.

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Some Incest

My hypothetical analyst is always playing with himself at home. I like to think of him and imagine that I am there with him. My pile of underwear is in the corner and he is fingering me on the couch which is also the sectional leather sofa of my parents’ living room growing up. All my sexual fantasies take place there, even though I haven’t been home in fifteen years. When I masturbate, this erotic daydream starring my analyst recedes, and I visualize featureless individuals deterministically performing incestuous roles on or near that couch.

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Some People Cannot Get Enough of Horses or Fear

My life has never revolved around horses, but when I’m with my analyst I feel like that can’t possibly be true. A photograph of my mother, twelve, in full English riding apparel, legs spread over the hunt-saddled back of a rare dapple gray thoroughbred. A dream of my father as a fellow passenger on a train, a child, leaning closer (the fields of horses blurring outside the window into a sea of horses) and then oldish again, bridling the black gelding gently in the stable. Preoccupied, exalted, mentally ill, or otherwise as the blank and expanding face of the motherless child, a shifting animated surface coming and going. I was present for the recumbent castration of the wild black foal. A sterile surgical violence intended to deliven the animal. This was before our family was in the papers, on the news. Before I really learned about things becoming other things. But I can’t share that past even though I secretly want people to know. My notorious past, my notorious self, my notorious father. My notorious father in prison, our home gone. I worked at fast food restaurants, then in nursing homes, then as a canvasser, always thieving as I went, always pulling money out of purses or tills. But being clever about it, never caught. What else do people do when they are in exile from their lives. Sometimes I can take a walk and notice the trees, the flowers, and wonder their names, and see my life as emanating from this particular watery moment and nothing else, but other times, it’s a load of garbage. I open my eyes and I see nothing but the apartment empty except for the still vibrating piles of books, the deformed pile of underwear in the corner.

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Some Thoughts on Gnosticism

I dream my dead sister’s dreams about sex, and babies in danger. I write a list poem. Even if it contains no merit as far as craft goes, it is true and it is shocking. And what is true and what is shocking is art. I knew this as a child. I think probably god has something to do with it too, with what makes good art good, transcendence and all that, gnostic impulse, disillusionment with the false reality manufactured by the demiurge, a kind of inner light, an inner seeing, traces of which are the product of the artist. She dreams about a guy with two dicks raping her, and one of the dicks is kind of his leg. She dreams she pays a woman one hundred dollars to hold her baby while she goes on the rollercoaster. She dreams our mother gives birth to a three-legged albino foal that my sister has to take care of. The foal has lethal white syndrome; it has no colon; it suffers colic for four days before finally collapsing and turning into our father. My analyst says there are obstacles on my path to self-actualization.

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My Mother Was a Sourpuss

I close my eyes and I see her at the patio smoking, pale blue flip-flop dangling from her toe, the sole of her foot black. She is turning away from me and I am turning turning turning in the other chair, spinning myself, propelling myself around using the table edge, annoying her as always, always always always annoying her always being in the way always.

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A Movie With a Dead Horse in It

When I first got my driver’s license I drove around with my sister pasting maxi pads on stop signs and faking accents at the drive thrus. We saw a movie with a French title that meant something like The Terrible Secret. I sat with my sister and a boy named Thomas and watched a sloe-eyed woman with short blonde hair sob in a diner, describing to an older man the time her father spent a whole night beating to death the horse he gifted her on her birthday. On the day of her wedding to the stranger she walks off a cliff. Her veil floating down, landing on the choppy water, white and undulating like a dead jellyfish, then the camera panning out, the veil a white speck lost in the gray and white water. It was, at that point, the best movie I had ever seen. My sister left halfway through. She who ended up with the symmetrical breasts. Walking home with Thomas, I saw the moon, pink and unreal, and the raindrops on branches like tiny glass beads. The world looked different then, precious and serious, turned into something else, and I felt that some definite change had taken place inside me. On our way home we saw one of the maxi pads on the sidewalk, bloated, deformed by rainwater.

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A Physical Description Sort Of

My analyst has wonderful hair. A coarse, natural mane. Straw-colored. The only thing is his eye. He has one horrid eye that is white in the iris and thickly occluded by flesh. He says it is the effect of neuralgia. I think it is of drink and sin, some accident resultant of. He suffers from frequent headaches and a mild form of epilepsy that causes him either intense religious experiences or involuntary acts of sexual exhibitionism. He treats his ailments with castor oil and continuous alcohol consumption. Despite his one apparent defect he is very handsome, and I am often able to endure the painful eleven consecutive hours of intense psychotherapy by daydreaming that he will conclude the session with a striptease.

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Some Biography Lifted From Anachronistic Literary Gossip

Sometimes, after he has drank enough, I am able to get the analyst to talk about himself. This is how I find out that he is a widower and that he was adopted based on his astrological chart. That he once got in a fight with Jackson Pollock at a bar in Berkeley. That he always carries his knife with him because you never know. That he worked for a few years as a pastry chef and fathered four illegitimate children before vanishing to the East for seven years on spiritual pilgrimage through India, China, Tibet, and Japan, wanting to reconcile once and for all the esoteric beliefs of his grandmother and her hopes and aspirations for what he would become and the mundane existence he had up until that point been leading. At these moments he tells me many useless important things. Much of it revolves around occult practices and wilderness survival. Regarding the latter, stuff like, if you run out of salt and pepper, you can sort of season meat with gunpowder. It doesn’t so much work as give the illusion of working. He wears the same dressage that my father wore. They are both uncircumcised. In every life he has died by horse. In his other, simultaneous, life he is a horse thief on the Oregon trail.

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Adolescence Is the Least Interesting Developmental Phase

My mother’s voice had a tender, weary quality in the morning. She’d come to my room and say my name softly to wake me. And it always would, as if my soul lie watchful and waiting within my dead sleep for the maternal interpellation. I would put on dirty clothes and my mother never bothered me about the way I dressed then. On the way to school, I used my backpack to keep half-warm in the Jeep with the missing passenger window. Passing the horses passing the fields, those dreams of preindustrial freedom, of agricultural aspirations, blurring on behind me into a sea, a sea of so many horses. Then, the three of us would never speak, and maybe that is why these mornings are imbued in my memory with a subtle, barely detectable, but profound bliss. By night she was drunk on boxed wine and she and my father would set about destroying all the furniture, turning the house into a labyrinth of broken and disappeared and transformed objects. The sequence of leased luxury cars, of Porsches and Jaguars and other Porsches, turned into a broken down Jeep overnight. And overnight the mansion with seventeen fruit trees, with horses, turned into a series of motels with not even a painting of a horse anywhere. That’s when I learned about things becoming other things. At school unshowered smelling of cigarettes I bullied the girls that were easy to bully so that I would not be bullied. I snuck used menstrual pads and dirty underwear into their lockers, their backpacks. Practiced covert and overt cruelties to cradle a fledgling evil.

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A Vision

 Then I see horses. Lame horses in a field. Having kicked so many people to death they are tired, tired, tired horses. Tired from murdering people and kicking them to death. Their eyes roll back in their heads, their hooves are covered in dark saucy blood. Their teeth are yellow like a weird giant’s teeth. So many horse heads in the field, horse heads attached to bodies of big strong horses, castrated horses, ball-less horses. Testicles. No testicles on these horses. Then just parts of horses, cut up, put in a pile. Then I see the woman, the veil on the water bobbing along, a lacy jellyfish undulating out to sea. I see the dead horse, the black-and-white film.

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Paintings and Printings

His apartment has this kind of champagne-colored brindle-patterned carpet. The pattern disguises the stains from eating and spilling things in the dark (there is no electricity or furniture). Paintings of painted horses, Spanish horses, palominos, clutter the walls. Pilings of printed reference material about esoteric programs and spells and systems and horses fill the apartment. We sit among titles like The Sentimental Age, Purposes of Paternity, Silent Processes, Savage Powers, Specifications for Speed. The pages speak to American Spiritualism, the importance of ritual and animal identification in the psychosexual development of preadolescent children, dreamwork. I’d rather take the horse-centric memoirs, and the morbidly erotic paperbacks authored by his maternal grandmother.

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I Don’t Talk to My Sister Anymore So It’s Like She Is Dead

I do not know her every day she becomes less a part of me and I just have to remember that one day it’ll be like she never happened. Everyone comes apart. Pieces falling off of each other. We are just pieces falling off of each other, rolling away or something down a stupid hill to places we never wanted to be, to go. And I miss your pieces, the pieces I’ve seen and touched and heard along the way but have since vanished. Pieces that told me things to myself like that I was beautiful. Goodbye pieces. We all want to be better, to be totally different, to be touched by god. The truth. I wanted answers but he reminds me that I don’t have the questions.

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Some Bluish Imagery

We had to leave. I am in exile from my life. You moved around you lost your space you lost your safety your Self it was gone it disappeared there was no where to hide anymore. I would have thought it very bad very bad to discover my true self emerging, covered in something sour and tendrilly and a woman falling from the sky headfirst in a white dress against a blue background. And a house slanting in the snow with blue clouds pushing into an atmosphere of blue and blue-black waves. And the veil bobbing along slowly dissolving into the crush.

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Ways in Which I Am Like My Mother

You can spend your whole life mad about one thing.

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She Is Also Gone

I am that shifting surface, glittering and not still. My identity floats around a ghost. I am a ghost! I died that day! But I didn’t, not really, not really. My mother asked for a tissue. Bring me a tissue please, she said. She was crying. She has a hoarse British accent. She smokes a lot. Tell me about your life, mother. I could say. But it’s too late. What happened happened and I don’t understand it.

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Dubious Analysis and Advice

You think having a husband would have granted you some sense of security and moral responsibility, he says, but you have failed to interrogate the notions of security and moral responsibility. The only thing to do is to consult the I Ching and pray that your ancestors take collective possession of your will. I can prescribe some rituals to help you accomplish this.

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A Glitch

Coming back from the theater I prayed that my mother would not be home. That she would not be sitting at the kitchen island in the house that would be foreclosed on six months later, drinking from her boxed white wine in shorts that rode up all the way and her legs carelessly open and everything in me pining for calamity, an asteroid, an event to erase this image forever.

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Perturbation

My dream is the one with the strong black foal, flailing. Hot-blooded and barn-sour.

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Sex and Death

When I run out of things to say about horses my analyst sighs and fondles the plastic horse on his desk. There is something, right then, about the chin in profile and the fleshy bottom lip that brings to mind a vivid sexual fragment of my youth: Thomas’ expression upon penetration, immediately supplanted by a vision of blood and pulp, a hoof, a cracked skull, a dark pool, and the indefinite memory of long days and longer nights, a consequent lust for annihilation.

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24/7 My analyst in white leather pants and black vest encourages me to view all my dreams as auspicious, to take frequent naps, and to sleep at least twelve hours a night in three hour segments punctured by an hour of terrible nocturnal lucidity. My analyst in his continental accent speaks of the progressive erosion of the distinction between night and day, day and night, making mystery and unknowability impossible. Sleep is the key to gnosis, he says with his really very sensual mouth. We must forget. We must nonexist with regularity. Constant light is blinding; orientation becomes impossible. We spend a third of our sessions in silent colloquy with what cannot sensibly speak. But speak I must. I tell my analyst the most shocking things I can about myself. I never lie. When it comes to my analyst, I have dripping integrity. He dons an invisible mask of patience or maybe indifference or maybe power, but I know that deep down my confessions put into question his deepest axioms, that his entire worldview is troubled by my secrets, and nothing could make me prouder or hornier.

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Hayley Boyd’s poetry has recently been published in Anderbo. She co-hosts a podcast, Readin’ n Watchin’, on fancyfilmfellows.com and she is the editor of the forthcoming literary food blog Eating in My Home. She lives in Portland, Oregon. 

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