Two Poems

Two poems, each with a nod in the direction of the good Herr Doktor Freud, and a (very) few thoughts about them.


The Dream by Felix Pollak

He dreamed of

an open window.

A vagina, said

his psychiatrist.

Your divorce, said

his mistress.

Suicide, said

an ominous voice within him.

It means you should close the window

or you'll catch cold, said

his mother.

His wife said


He dared not tell her

such a

dangerous dream.


'Na, jah,' says Freud, 'you see how easy it is for people to criticize my methods whilst remaining obligated to zem? Ze problem of interpretation is not about solutions, no, it is about following one's own desires. Vee see ourselves, looking back, jah? But for poems like for ze dream, we cannot be free of the feeling that zere is an answer, just ze one, somewhere hidden. But zat answer is one we cannot ever be allowed to know. And vat do I think it means? Beware ze counter-transference of women with whom you are intimate, my friend, it is never less than dangerous, no?'


Stress by Wendy Cope


He would refuse to put the refuse out.

The contents of the bin would start to smell.

How could she be content? That idle lout

Would drive the tamest woman to rebel.

And, now that she's a rebel, he frequents

The pub for frequent drink-ups with a mate

Who nods a lot whenever he presents

His present life at home as far from great.

The drinking makes his conduct even worse

And she conducts herself like some poor soul

In torment. She torments her friends with verse,

Her protest poems – dreadful, on the whole.

We daren't protest. Why risk an upset when

She's so upset already? I blame men.


Wendy Cope has to be my all-time favourite poet. I just love her lack of pretension, both in subject matter and structure, and I enthusiastically embrace her belief that poetry can be very, very funny. What I love most about this poem is the downward spiral it traces through those slightly awkward stepping stones of the coupled words, drawn together by similarity but straining apart by pronunciation, in a way that mirrors the relationship between the man and the woman. The progression isn't innocent either, as it moves from domestic irritation to suffering to bad verse – who hasn't been there? And the final bald statement, the screech of brakes as the buck stops, never fails to make me laugh. Essentially I like to think she's telling us that with emotions, as with linguistics, stress is, after all, only ever a matter of emphasis.


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