To Love One Who Cannot Love Themselves


United States
28° 36' 4.8348" N, 81° 12' 3.3444" W
United States
28° 36' 4.8348" N, 81° 12' 3.3444" W

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.


You don’t.


Because you know as soon as those words are out,

Floating through the world on innocent intent

They will be strangled down

And marred

And murdered.


Not brutally,

Not directly,

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,

From drowning,

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,

Something good

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

In everything.

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,

Denying themselves

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

To speak

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

Because today--


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.”


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