I read that Simic was inspired to write this poem after seeing an advert in the classified section for past lives therapy, caught by the idea of people resorting to something like that, unable to resolve the issues in their current lives. While the tone is mocking, the poet seems to be hinting at the mouse-like plight of the person seeking help. A poem that I think will stick in my mind …
Past Lives Therapy
They explained to me the bloody bandages
On the floor in the maternity ward in Rochester, N.Y.,
Cured the backache I acquired bowing to my old master,
Made me stop putting thumbtacks round my bed.
They showed me an officer on horseback,
Waving a saber next to a burning farmhouse
And a barefoot woman in a nightgown,
Throwing stones after him and calling him Lucifer.
I was a straw-headed boy in patched overalls.
Come dark a chicken would roost in my hair.
Some even laid eggs as I played my ukulele
And my mother and father crossed themselves.
Next, I saw myself inside an abandoned gas station
Constructing a spaceship out of a coffin,
Red traffic cone, cement mixer and ear warmers,
When a church lady fainted seeing me in my underwear.
Some days, however, they opened door after door,
Always to a different room, and could not find me.
There’d be only a small squeak now and then,
As if a miner’s canary got caught in a mousetrap.
For past Saturday Poems, take a look at the archive in Poetry Please.