They perch in front of a mirror,
Teetering on a tightrope, thousands of miles in the air,
Swaying in the roguish winds
With a net made of crisscrossing razor blades serving as the only defense from a cold ground
As they peer in,
Into the mirror,
Seeing all that they once were and all that they are not.
You can see their eyes flitting,
Looking everywhere but at themselves
The slightest twinge of the gruesome smear of dislike splitting their face.
They say nothing.
“You are beautiful”
You want to say.
Because you know as soon as those words are out,
Floating through the world on innocent intent
They will be strangled down
But with a subtle shake of the head
Or the assassin’s strike of a dismissive laugh
As the words that are so desperately true and wonderful in your heart
Fail to sink into theirs,
Fail to wipe away the grime they see in that circus mirror.
Words are intangible.
Words cannot dull a blade or heal a scar.
Words cannot remedy in one day
The damage that so many years under the heart-wrenching
Iron grip of self-depreciation
Has so maliciously inflicted
With all the nonchalance of an American CEO,
Taking the precious lakes, awe-inspiring forests, and humbling mountains
That makes up their perfect soul
And ravishing it away with some demonic chemical waste
That morphs what they see into a freak show,
Into the aftermath of when Einstein’s worst invention,
Met the people of Hiroshima,
Into something so grotesque, they flinch in fear at the site.
Words are intangible.
Words cannot stop them from hating themselves,
Trapped in the suffocating institution of their own skin
The only escape from which is a sharp edge
That can cut away the confines,
That can maybe reveal something redeeming,
Under what—to them—is only monstrous human flesh.
But no matter how much they dig into themselves with that blade
They find only blood,
And they hate themselves more.
Words are intangible.
Nothing you say can
Pierce past the indefinite fortresses
That have been erected to keep their heart from themselves
In the hopes that next time,
Next time they will call you.
But words cannot put down a knife
And words cannot pick up a phone or dial a number.
You know that there is no monster,
That no ghastly demon has made its way into their head
To whisper the thoughts
Of faults and flaws and frailties
In their ear.
Those thoughts are their own.
But you also know
That while they find no good when looking at themselves,
They find so much of it when looking at the world.
They see those precious lakes, those awe-inspiring forests, those humbling mountains
Every dog rushing through the world in curiosity,
Every bug sprawling out in the sun,
Every plant pushing, so gently, back against the breeze
Is a wonder to them.
They have so much love for the world
And they so happily give it out
In smiles and laughs.
They give until they have nothing left.
Then they return home,
To themselves and their solitude and their volatile thoughts
And when they close the door, they no longer see that joyous world that overcame them
And they hurt themselves.
And you watch.
You watch as they rush about the world,
Embodying every spirit whose lip formed a ‘carpe diem’
Being a light for everyone else.
You watch as they cut themselves off,
And closing themselves in the dark.
You think that if they are so busy giving
That at the end of the day all their love is spent,
Then maybe you could give them some love of your own,
You may not have nearly as much love as they do but,
When you look at them
And a smile somehow wanders upon your face,
It certainly feels like you do.
So you watch, and you think, and you know
And time slips by unnoticed
And they still have their scars.
And new ones still rip across their arm.
And you try so hard
So desperately hopefully hard
And say the right words
That will make them look up and see how wonderful they are
But words are intangible
And cannot give sight to the blind,
And when they call themselves ugly
You know they have to be blind to believe it.
And they are,
As they pick up a blade
To cut across their skin
Into your heart
But you do not cry with the pain,
Rather, you smile
Hoping they might see
And remember that they can smile too
Because the world is unending in greatness.
Sometimes they look up and their teeth gleam back at you,
White flags that, for once, mean victory,
And they come out to see life for a while.
But sometimes no matter how big you smile
How loud you laugh
Or wildly you dance
They cannot see through their own dark shroud
And make scars on themselves
That you want to kiss away
But your lips do no more healing then your words
And you cannot swipe away the dark.
Yet you stay.
You stay, and you smile, and you speak
As they clamber up to sit on that treacherous rope again,
Balancing between health and happiness
To look into that mirror
And you hold your breath and wait
For the frown to crack open their face
They turn to you
With those loving eyes and a smile that’s so soft the gentlest tap of your finger could obliterate it
They turn to you
And they speak
“I look beautiful today”
For once you doubt that words are intangible
Because upon hearing those
You feel something solid, and real burst up from your heart.
But words are not tangible
And cannot stop self-harm
And as that feeling flushes through you, it rises again,
That bang and rattle in your mouth, seeking the open air
But you clench down
Because you know
That your own words cannot heal.
They can only influence, and coerce, and tenderly push.
Like drops of the ocean sliding over rock
Taking centuries to turn a boulder to sand
It takes so long for the words that are so desperately true and wonderful in your heart
To sink in through the cracks that they put in their skin
To swim through bones
To pass through their life
And come out their mouth.
But still, you sit in ecstasy over the smallest of their smiles
As words wait in your lungs for the day they are ready to be felt
“You are beautiful. Everyday. You are beautiful.”