Satan Talks to His Therapist

Satan Talks to His Therapist

by Melissa Balmain
Satan Talks to His Therapist

Satan Talks to His Therapist

by Melissa Balmain


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"If the LOLSOB emoji could write verse that both sings and stings, the result would be Satan Talks to His Therapist."

—Allison Joseph, author of Confessions of a Barefaced Woman

“Balmain treads that fine line between comedy and tragedy in poems graced by telling details, surprising turns, and a keen sense of the absurd … Satan Talks to His Therapist is a serious book that’s very funny, and Melissa Balmain’s gift is being able to tilt toward humor without losing the ache beneath the laughter."
Literary Matters

In Satan Talks to His Therapist, Melissa Balmain explores the lighter side of dark times. Playful yet poignant, her poems perfectly capture our human fallibility and comedic sense of importance.

The collection begins with “On Looking at an MRI Cross-Section,” in which Balmain peeks inside her own skull to consider the jumble of thoughts and memories harbored there. After this introduction to the poet's inner world, the book divides into three sections: Spiraling Down, In Limbo, and Climbing Out. The poems in this lyrical descent and ascent are about climate change, social media, pandemics, politics (sexual and otherwise), parenthood, consumerism, aging, loss, and ills, both physical and societal. Balmain writes in meter and rhyme, and she uses traditional forms (sonnets, villanelles, terza rima) as well as ones she’s coined for the moment.

The poems in Satan Talks to His Therapist provide clarity and comedy in a time that feels anything but clear or comic, and they hint at the consolations of art, kindness, maturity, persistence, love, and, of course, humor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589881815
Publisher: Dry, Paul Books, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/12/2023
Pages: 91
Sales rank: 1,029,735
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Melissa Balmain is the editor-in-chief of Light, America’s longest-running journal of comic verse. Her poems and prose have appeared in such places as The American Bystander, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Ecotone, The Hopkins Review,  Lighten Up Online, The New Verse News, Poetry Daily, Rattle, and The Washington Post. Balmain is the author of two previous poetry collections, Walking in on People (chosen by X.J. Kennedy for the Able Muse Book Award) and The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy Tale Reboots for Adults, as well as a travel memoir. A member of the University of Rochester’s English Department since 2010, she lives nearby with her husband and (for now) one of their two children. She is a recovering mime.

Read an Excerpt


for Bill

Yesterday I thought you might be dying;
you couldn’t do a thing I didn’t love.
I rubbed your back and cooked you soup, implying to God I had the full intention of becoming much more saintly, there and then,
if only She would make you well again.

Today you’re fine—our miracle’s been granted.
I hate the way you give your soup a slurp.
Each ordinary moment feels enchanted,
although I pray you’ll learn how not to burp.
I’m giddy, I’m delirious, I’m free to be as petty as I used to be.

"Sidewalk Face-Off"

Look! From opposite directions,
wearing masks to thwart infections,
two athletic pairs of spouses march past neo-Tudor houses.
Sneakers pound and pulses quicken:
it’s a game of COVID-chicken!

Who will keep on striding forward,
chin and eyeballs firmly lowered?
Who will scurry six feet over to the dog-doo-studded clover,
fearful that they’ll later sicken thanks to playing COVID-chicken?

Every day the teams assemble.
Every day their innards tremble like the innards of scared rabbits,
but they keep their walking habits:
in a world that’s stalled and stricken there’s no sport but COVID-chicken.

"Being the parent . . ."

                                      . . . means, at family meals,
you pour and ladle while your food congeals,
then eat the Brussels sprouts the children spurned because they’re burned,
the chicken leg with unattractive gore,
the slice of sourdough that hit the floor.
And if there’s not enough dessert for each,
you grab a peach,
as stoic as Ma Joad,
while they have brownies à la mode.

It means when there’s a spider in the john so big it ought to have a collar on,
and you would rather opt for spidercide or simply hide,
you have to show them how to trap the thing inside a glass, then nonchalantly bring it out of doors where it can leap and land as nature planned,
before you stride back in to find it clinging to your shin.

It means the movies, plays and TV shows you watch are ones another person chose.
It means you have no privacy. It means no spicy greens or stinky cheese or fish that’s on the bone.
And when at last the kids have up and flown and you’re allowed to do just as you please,
from bugs to bries,
it means this change you thought would help you miss them less does not.

"Thanksgiving Climate Change Song"
(to the tune of “Over the River and Through the Woods”)

Over the river and through the woods
To Grandma’s we planned to go,
But floods rose all day
And the bridge washed away
And a Honda is hard to row.

Over to Amtrak we went, of course,
Which would have been just fine
If wildfires had not
Occurred on the spot
To block the 4:09.

Over our budget, we caught a plane—
We’d soon take off, we knew!
But cyclones and swarms
Of tropical storms
Had stranded the whole damn crew.

Over and over we tried to Zoom:
Hail knocked the power dead.
No time to stay put,
We’ve departed on foot
For New Year’s Eve instead.

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