Sleep and the Therapist: A Poem

Sleep and the Therapist: A Poem

by Esther W. Wright-Wilson
A therapist poetically chronicles an underreported occupational hazard.
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Most times it is courteous
Sending notice of its pending arrival
Yawns that begin tiny, politely, and gradually stretch the jaw
Blinks that seem to beat in slow motion to some unknown tune and then even slower to some unheard command
This time, however, its approach was one a stealth bomber would envy
A stealth attack if there ever was one and in the most inconvenient place . . . a therapy session

It was not that I was bored or even distracted
Looking at the clock in disbelief that what I knew was half an hour
was in fact just five minutes
Just seconds before, I had been attentive, present when suddenly, sleep descended
Seductive, irresistible, folding me in soft arms
And I was in trouble
Struggling to contain jaw splitting yawns in the twin caves of my cheeks
Changing positions frequently as if the chair's cushion was suddenly holding the heat of a Texas summer day
or had morphed into its cousin, holding pins
Crossing first the right knee over the left
Then the left over the right
Crossing the ankles in similar fashion
Trying to do all this with style and nonchalance

Usually I value eye contact but now I am grateful for the seconds my client looks down or away
Shutting my eyes quickly for sweet relief
Hoping I can open them before she looks up again
But desperation sets in when I see three identical clients where there is only one
Prayers ascend rapidly and fervently
"God, please don't let me fall asleep." "Please help me stay awake." "Please, God, please!!"
"Just for a few more minutes, help me keep my eyes open"
And I almost believe that I hear sleep's soft laughing whisper, "Stop fighting and embrace me."
My prayers are now one word, "Help!" "Please!"
Then finally, it is time to end and if I was ever happier to see quarter or ten till the hour
I cannot recall it

© 2011 Esther W. Wright-Wilson
Esther W. Wright-Wilson Esther W. Wright-Wilson, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who has worked primarily with college students. She loves writing, finds few things more satisfying than a well-turned phrase, and would have everyone engage in journal writing if she had her way. She has written poems for several years, and her more recent poems include ones about her experiences as a psychologist.