Monday, September 23, 2019

A Completely Irresponsible Poem


Anna O let go from the bursting seams
of the vault of her dreams the first
tendrils and streams of the onset of what
German doctors had by 1880 long
weightily labeled hysteria. Studying
instances of the eruptive gestalt of
the ill-passioned heart and irrational
mind of one Fräulein Bertha Pappenheim,
Breuer and Freud believed they were making
their very first leap to and into the Void,
the vast nasty realm of Unknowing: they’d
opened the lid to the id. But what was
all that but a big fart of empty abstraction?
Freud called it Unconscious, which wasn’t
much help. By now Bertha Pappenheim was
Anna O in case history abstracts. First feeling
depleted, annoyed and defeated – eventually
she felt fine. Freud and Breuer and she
must have felt they had done something
interesting and very likely they had. Anna O
slept in books while Bertha went on as
a woman of no special consequence. But
I think the show Anna O would put on for her
Breuer and Freud – her twitches, her fairy
tale ramblings, her screeching unreasonably
in the street, her yowling at night or at noon,
her fractured recital of poems she wrote
on the spot which remarked in a boom
and a bark how she’d never agree to take
part or to play any creature remotely like
Bertha was – meant Anna O was a “me”.
Bertha Pappenheim seemed to lack any
gestalt Anna O would bestow on a flea.
But all that lies dead and unread in a book
at which fewer and fewer of us ever look.

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