May 17

Lee Whitman-Raymond, Therapist and Poet: “De Profundis”

I’ve asked my friend and colleague Dr. Lee Whitman-Raymond to allow me to post her poem “De Profundis” as well as to provide an explication.

From Lee Whitman-Raymond:

I wrote this poem after my analyst died. De Profundis means “out of the deep” and is from a psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, Hear my voice.”

A fundamental task of a psychodynamic therapy is for the client and therapist to learn about the client’s pain, its sources and meanings, and for the dyad to hold that pain together. In the beginning, the therapist may hold more, but hopefully as the client understands herself better she becomes more able to hold her own disavowed feelings and unbearable pain within herself and with trusted loved ones. Because this is such an intimate and collaborative enterprise, the therapist’s death can be experienced not just as a loss, but as a traumatic loss, as the client is left alone to contain not only the pain she came to the therapist to help her with, but also the loss of an important caregiver, sometimes the very first reliable one in a person’s life.

The Poem by Lee Whitman-Raymond

De Profundis

the lost
drifts into the deep
where have you gone

you promised I would be
in your thoughts
now your thoughts are

Into the deep I pour these tears
what is abyss
a bissell
a big shell

a hollow wallow
with no skin
a falling into

like on the stairs
because of not
holding on

crayons in each chubby fist
yellow crimson black
like the arm at the foot of the stairs
broken and reset

because it was not believed
that I fell
laid so still
on my white coverlet

broken in pieces
only breaking
to hold onto

you  and now not you
I said I could remember it all
I said I wouldn’t forget

yet every day I forgot
one more sentence
another smile

this skull, little tomb
a falling inside

yes a falling sickness
and yet

we do not forget
the stretch of green

bluing into night
against your window
I see you still
dark space at the window

the silence of entwining
the spirit of falling
the sudden ground

(in memory of  Andrew Morrison, MD 1937-2010)

More from Lee Whitman-Raymond:

In this poem I am falling, but also recalling the way my analyst and I talked together: a bissell is Yiddish for “a little” and reminds me of the connection I also had with my grandparents.

Falling and the fear of falling—out of control, without boundaries to contain the vast feelings are central themes to this poem. But in the resolution I discover that I did/do remember, and as I do, I feel the ground under me again, I am contained and held by the earth and by my memories of him, as he would surely want.