“Self-Therapy” by Fay Dillof

Fay Dillof


What is unearned depression? I ask a client who, wishing 
he understood why he’s feeling down, uses the phrase.

Not that he actually wants there to be a reason—
some life-wrecking event—it’s just 

without one, I feel so shallow, he says.
Should I tell him about my friend who, after round three 

of chemo, said I like Sinead O’Connor and Tupac too but not
looking like them? 

Should I ask What’s shallow v. deep?
We’re in my office where a book’s title declares All Parts Are Welcome.

An angry part that spent Saturday in the dark living room, bitching. 
A thin-skinned part, lickety-split at feeling left out.

A steel-hearted part, thorn-guarded.
Meanwhile, the Ash out the window is exuberantly waving, Aloha.

Meanwhile, like the wildfire, which yesterday jumped 
the Carquinez Bridge, cancer cells are spreading

through the chest of my closest friend.
Messing with another friend’s ovaries.  

What is unearned depression? The question is nearly swallowed
by the white noise machine in the hall, which sounds like a fan or God

help us an ocean. 
The ocean. 

So much beauty.
Ditto, illness. Isn’t all of it 


from Rattle #70, Winter 2020


Fay Dillof: “While I never, of course, refer to actual clients with whom I meet, I have begun writing poems that use therapy sessions as a jumping-off place. Doing so provides a structure, which allows my poems (like sessions) to hold a space for questions and reflection. Or maybe it’s just that, for me, a poem is akin to an intimate conversation.”

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