In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
This is such an interesting, arresting little poem. Joyce Carol Oates, of course, used a fragment of it for a title of one of her books. It's very dreamlike and enigmatic. Most readers see it as a metaphor for the self-destructiveness or self-centeredness of depression or addiction. In fact, I wonder if this poem is where the expresssion "Eat your heart out" arises from?
When I read it to my partner, who is a psychotherapist (and a very good one!), he saw it as a metaphor for the process of therapy, where you sit with your pain, your bitterness, and try to understand it in a deep way ("eat of it"), as a way to know yourself, to heal.