Sunday March 19, 2017
After a stroke, the decades-long relationship between a poet and her therapist enters a new chapter
more stories from this episode
- For inflight medical emergencies, no female doctors need apply - Michael's essay
- How close are we to the end of the world?
- After a stroke, the decades-long relationship between a poet and her therapist enters a new chapter
- From rural Afghanistan to the halls of power and the global diplomatic stage
- Full Episode
At 26, Molly Peacock was married and a successful university administrator. She seemed happy and on top of everything.
But a harrowing childhood haunted her. And, secretly, she wanted to be a poet.
All of the poets I had seen or heard about were crazy, and they were drinkers. The last thing I waned to be was a crazy drinker, because my dad was a drinker. At that point, my sister was shooting heroin. What I wanted was to be normal. That was my deep, deep desire. But my world was breaking up because I realized I wanted to leave my perfectly lovely, nice-guy husband ... and I wanted to strike out and I wanted to write books and I wanted to walk off that cliff. And so I found myself knocking on the door of Joan Stein. - Molly Peacock
It was 1974. And so began a relationship that lasted almost four decades, off and on, across different cities and countries.
Joan Stein was Molly's therapist and analyst.
Molly went on to become a successful poet, essayist and biographer.
Whenever she faced a crisis or felt unsteady, she called Joan, and Joan answered.
But in 2012, Joan had a stroke — and Molly the patient became Molly the friend.
Joan Stein now lives in an assisted living facility in Seattle, Washington, and has returned to her artistic work as a painter.
Alisa Siegel's documentary is called "The Returner."
Molly Peacock, from The Analyst, published by Biblioasis, March 2017
"But you paid her, didn't you?"
Certainly, I say. (Isn't love free?)
"But you paid her to listen for…"
One thousand two-hundred and ninety-four hours.
Say you were in an accident, say you
had to begin a series of procedures…
Some years you might feel fixed—
walking and running and swimming
—but if a part of you, your femur
or ulna, your cerebral reaction responses
your pelvis, your seventh facial nerve,
started to weaken or fray,
you'd have to go back to that office again
endure the surgery, then perform
the hours of post-op exercises.
And partly-healed injuries have
their own torque… Bones
(minds have bones) grow even
after they're operated on…
human growth as complicated
as every light-year to Aldebaran,
every hair on every bonobo,
every pistil of every aquilegia…
The analyst and I only understood a minim
of it all, a jot. Together
this became our joint art: my job
to feel my strength—to stretch and hurl
—hers to listen, question, watch things heal.
"But you paid her, didn't you?"
How that question endures.
Yes, because we live in an economy.
Because it didn't start out as love…
it started as watching,
one's sightings in the telescope
the other's findings from the microscope
both with a fascinated reverence
for how we're made. Somewhere, our meshed process
became love. "But it was paid love, wasn't it?"
Where else in life is the necessity for payment so clear?
You could call it making a living,
though now that it's over,
perhaps it's the pure unpaid love you mean.
Click 'play' above to hear the full documentary.