the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Charles Cote

Shrink Sees His Own Shrink

and greets him with an awkward hug
one Saturday afternoon, his shrink
looking pale and clutching a brown
paper bag on his way out of Lisa’s
Liquor Barn, Shrink on his way
in, his shrink on the way out.


Shrink Stretches

to be more lithe, sits ass pressed against the wall
and floor, tries to touch his toes, his body’s L
a broken hinge, a door left open to ruin.
So he rescues a dog from the shelter, a Springer
with enough zing for both of them. He learns too late

it pulls hard against the leash, won’t come when called
(just like his boys and wife), this field-bred hunter
with a nose full of rodents and birds.
What Shrink could do with that kind of enthusiasm.

He names the dog Walter, puts him out back
for relief, ties him to a nylon line.  Walter is meant
to heal, to help Shrink’s patients, but so far not much
luck. The dog’s left eye clouded two days after

adoption, turned metallic blue, optic nerve
burned out from bad genes or some unrecorded
abuse, which may explain the excitement
urination, the submissive pose when approached.

Short-sighted this ragged pair, Walter and Shrink.
The dog will go fully-blind soon enough
and Shrink will become its seeing-eye person
on walks in the park, pointing out all those squirrels
and robins, praising him for staying calm.


Shrink’s Own Shrink, Zipping Up His Fly

in the men’s room, right as shrink enters to relieve himself
before seeing his shrink for their weekly session,
to process his dreams, his shrink smirking in surprise,
Shrink looking nervous, his shrink saying, My last patient
told me she liked my silver hair. Imagine that. And Shrink, nervous
as I’ve said, replying, Well, you are a silver fox, to her that is,
as he turns to the urinal while his shrink leaves
the john without washing his hands, leaves to wait for Shrink
to enter his room and shake this week’s dreams.


Shrink In Oz

Shrink says no to that man behind the curtain,
bellows at his wife, Where’s the Advil?!
Hot air rises and she’s stranded
in the kitchen while he’s off
to be the wizard, off to his sideshows
and distractions while she sorts
the recyclables: tin man from cowardly lion,
man with a head full of straw.
What she once saw in him
is lost to her now, but not to the people
in Oz. Shrink wants to be great
and powerful, works out twice a day
on the AbSlide, dispatching
his winged monkeys to recapture
his wife’s desire. Oh-Ee-Oh! Ee-Ow!
Shrink has trouble, his heart
racing for no reason, every reason.
He pulls a muscle in his groin.
Honey, where’s the ice pack? Eyes closed,
arms folded, she taps her slippers,
mutters, There really is no place like home.



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