Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (2021), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net Anthology and three times for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Chiron Review, Pangolin Review, The Sunlight Press, Sparks of Calliope, and elsewhere.
I had a collection of nickels, dimes and quarters neatly tucked into slots on those green pages. I remember Indian head nickels and Mercury dimes. I was never ardent, never obsessed enough—couldn’t get excited about that kind of change. The change that rocked me was produced by four lads from Liverpool: I Want to Hold Your Hand, Please Please Me, She Loves You. Their forty-fives cost fifty cents apiece. My coin collection was gone before you could twist or shout. Fifty years later, when my mother’s mind set off for nowhere land, I flew back to Cheyenne to spring her from the booby hatch, close-up my childhood home, and arrange her affairs, so I could get back to Pittsburgh with her in tow—another day in the life. At the American National Bank where mother had a safety deposit box, I almost collapsed carrying it to a table. It was filled with bags of coins, hundreds of dollars of pennies, dimes, quarters and silver dollars—all circulated into total worthlessness. Nothing in that drawer was real, but there was nothing to get hung about. With a little help from my wife I got Mother to Pittsburgh and into a comfortable assisted living facility where golden slumbers filled her eyes, where she ended the wild and windy night of her long and winding road.
The little girl envied the penis because, as Freud wrote, she thought she’d been castrated. Freud’s disciple, Karen Horney , debunked that myth by demonstrating that Freud’s theory of the little girl’s castration was identical to his theory of the little boy’s fantasy about what happened to the little girl. Horney’s truth did not set Freud free. He went apoplectic. Some say his cigar fell out of his mouth as he berated Horney for her apostacy, but then sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The only place I actually saw penis envy was in the men’s locker room at my gym in Pittsburgh where the slongs were on view for all the asses to assess. Imagine my skin-cobwebs while Dr. B, a senior analyst at the Pittsburgh Psycho- analytic Institute, stood next to me, jay naked, and obsessively flipped his scrotum with his hairy hand. Slap! Slap! Slap! Its vocabulary was trochaic: fleshy punches that punctuated his speech. So, when I resigned from the Pittsburgh Institute, gave up my faculty spot there, I sacrificed my opportunity to otherwise enjoy Dr. B’s company with his slaphappy scrotum. Freud wrote that psychoanalysis was the “impossible profession.” Had he had a premonition of analysts like Dr. B thoughtlessly flicking their kerbangers with impunity? Could that be why Freud sat outside of the patient’s view—so no one could see what the analyst was flipping? Or had Freud discovered an ancient, heretofore forgotten, Zen koan: What is the sound of one scrotum flapping?
Covered in the shroud of youth, I watched so many funny, fine, and profound men die from drink. I didn’t let it sadden me. I got angry instead. Bob who used to say he wouldn’t let his female doctor touch his perogies, Carlos who called me his compadre, Eugene whose last signature on a consent form resembled grapevine engravings on tombstones, Mr. Jones who refused to eat, would only drink milk, produced the most foul-smelling pure protein poops, or Jack, the former prizefighter and champion drinker whom we all loved and who, when asked to name the president during his mental status examination, confabulated that he couldn’t keep up with everything in the hospital: They don’t give me newspapers in here, he said. I tested their poop, gathered their spit, measured and emptied their urine, massaged their feet and backs, transported their bones and blood, reverently deposited their waists down the conveyances of the hospital industrial complex, bundled them lovingly, put them on gurneys, and took them to the morgue. Today, fifty years later, I cry for these men who broke my heart over and over when I was nineteen and had just begun to inflate my lungs with the breath of hope.