therapeutic one-upmanship

“In misdirected desire, the cicadas sing
their enticements to my lawnmower,
but its blades are dulled, and merely
caress the grass.”

“I didn’t ask about your feeble
suburban atmospherics.”

“My remark was contextual.
In answer to your question,
I make innumerable mistakes
in everything I do.”

The therapist offered scant comfort.
“Would the infinitude of your mistakes
match aleph-nought, of the rational numbers?”

“Less-than-rational, but does it matter?”

“By minutes and hours, by days and years,
all is oscillation. What matters
is your dimensionality.”

So authoritative, she was.
I revealed my inner origami.

“I was flat, now I’m crumpled,
turned from two, to an unpleasant three,

Not to be out-done, she countered:

“Once I was aligned, a strand
of uncooked spaghetti drifting
counter-planet wise, until I shattered
into fragments. Their gravitational
attraction framed a saturnine
ring around my mind.”

When we’d reached reductio ad absurdum
—quantum hamsters in gyroscopic wormholes—
the air conditioner was playing a waltz.

“Hold me close,” I said, “we must keep dancing.”

“I’m afraid that contravenes my code of ethics.”

aleph numbers

Still from the retroscapes video made for the Fracas Show, larger version here. Photography by Paul Sutton.


In February, I’ll be participating in the Fracas at the Articulate Project Space in Sydney with the phantasmagorical photographer Paul Sutton (insta). Our installation with video will be on display from February 12 to 21.

19 thoughts on “therapeutic one-upmanship

  1. Hilarious! ‘I revealed my inner origami’ is an unforgettable phrase. And I have met many a therapist with heads full of spaghetti. What I admire about your writing Steve is the way you can change direction from an apparently random non-sequitur opening to create something unique.

    • Thanks, Nikita. It felt right–there’s a lot of fanciful and fragile paper creations floating around in my head, and I’ve unravelled quite a bit of my own spaghetti.

      Sadly, that is my lawnmower. It’s grass-friendly. The cicadas are making a lot of noise this summer, but I find it pleasant. I’ve been hearing them since I was a child.

      The show is our third one at Articulate. An advantage is that I now know how it all works, and setting up should be straightforward, at least compared to the last two, where there were stacks of last-minute problems. Thanks again.

  2. “I was flat, now I’m crumpled,
    turned from two, to an unpleasant three,
    dimensions.” Reminds me of the movie Flatland from 2007, based on the book with the same name. I aspire to be like the protagonist, the Square, whose mind was opened up to new dimensions. (Though the Sphere lived in a three-dimensional world and the Square in a two-dimensional one, it was the former who refused to accept the possibility of a four-dimensional world!) Perhaps by reading your mind-bending pieces, I’m getting closer to my goal. 😊

    All the best for your installation in February, Steve.

    • I’m not familiar with Flatland, but I like the concept. Perhaps an allegory would be that, when you’re in a confined space for a time, your mind runs wild and free through imaginary dimensions. And conversely, if I were teleported to Rigel 5 to holiday with the Rigellians in their floating crystal metropolis, I wouldn’t be able to write any scifi, and I would want to come home. No I wouldn’t. 😸 Thank you, Magarisa.

  3. For some reason, which only the critters in my brain could explain, the exchange with the therapist reminded me of this:
    “Now let’s go through this one more time;
    you do your thing and I’ll do mine.
    But honey baby we got to draw the line
    when your hangups get to messing with mine.”
    – – Donna Fargo, Superman

    I love the quantum hamsters and the ending. Tell me, did the therapist insist on leading?

    • Great quote, I like that. Thanks, but I’d better not say. Once I did a bit of assistant tango teaching, and that’s played into this piece. The differences between partners were interesting, both leading and following: there’s something very personal about tango.

    • Thanks, Paul. The lawnmower was as it happened with a little soap opera. The origami comes from having spent quite a bit of time in Japan, interesting to see people’s pastimes in the suburbs. I don’t want to make any outlandish claims, 😸 but I think therapy has its place.

    • Thanks, Jim. You’re not late with anything. I’m so late these days, I’m hoping time might loop around, and I wind up being early.

      There’s one good thing about origami: it can be unfolded and refolded, so you can reinvent yourself. I’d like to be someone who isn’t as lazy.

    • Thanks, Peter. When I first went to Latin America to live, I was told “Don’t talk about politics, sex or religion.” Of course, they were pretty much the only things that anyone talked about. Possibly related, a lot less therapy goes on there.

  4. Pingback: therapeutic one-upmanship — inconstant light – The Narrow Edge

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