Saturday, June 24, 2006

Self-Esteem Problems; New Poem

I changed my photo again, the new one's from a reading in San Francisco sponsored by Pedestal Magazine.

I did not plan to blog today, but in trying to change my picture I ended up here.

I already had my morning catharsis by writing a long letter to a friend. While writing I started crying about my chronic self-esteem issues, how nothing I ever did was good enough, and besides, how accomplishments would never bring me love, much less self-love. But knowing how you're fucked up often doesn't help you're being fucked up.

Self-esteem is a gift that cannot be earned. Those who try to earn it will eventually be disappointed by their own efforts. Knowing this does not deliver one from being driven, sadly.

Why is it so many good people feel bad about themselves and so many bad people feel good about themselves?

I had a depressive dream last night with the recurrent theme: Why didn't you finish your psychiatry residency? (I had just a year to go.) When I woke I remembered the reason I dropped out was severe depression, something no one on the faculty could diagnose in me because I was their "golden boy" and none presumed that I might be suffering from one of the two major mental illnesses, the one that inspired the term, "lunatic."

Today I'm going to post a poem from my For Kathleen: Love Poems manuscript, because she was insightful enough to instantly recognize my self-esteem problem, sending me a piece of jewelry as an antidote back in '99. The poem tells the story well enough:

About the Bracelet

You sent me a silver bracelet.
"Damn I'm good," it said. But I found it
heavy and constricting, even painful
in its alien density. I was forgetting
my body again, how any restriction
burns like handcuffs, even a watchband,
but you know this—so I hung it from my keychain.
I like the heft of it there, I like to stretch
my knuckles against its links and feel
the ache of constant use relax.

What if all the righteous faded
by subtle increments to stark transparency
until no one could see them but themselves?
Left to our sordid board games,
would we even notice their absence?
In this scenario, you'd have disappeared
before we met. I'm so glad I see you!
And this bracelet, whether it marks my wrist
or jabbers with the keys, proves
I am also visible to you:

You saw the poor boy in the rich man's house.
You clothed him in your sea-green light.
You kissed him with your coral lips,
sucked poison from his stonefish heart
and smoothed the ragged seaweed
from his brow with patient fingers, whispering,
"You are loved, little boy, you are loved."

(published in Niederngasse)

If you click on the Niederngasse link above, you can read six more love poems from my feature.

Thine in ups and downs,



  1. I wish I had something clever and poetic to say, but that's not me, so I'll just tell you that I loved this poem about a bracelet. It is funny and touching and unique.

    You can write a wonderful poem, but your self-esteem will not let it register. This is a curse, but a temporary one I hope.

  2. When I ask her how much we can pay a certain debt this month, Kathleen says: "Don't worry about the money, your s____ loves you."

    In response I say, "If that is true, let us not jeopardize it lest it depart--so return the money forthwith!"

    Oh, and I'm glad you more than liked the poem, high praise from a Ch____. I have about sixty more to Kathleen. On my list of things to do is put the ms. together and seek publication, but I'll have to wait until I'm feeling better.

    Don't most women like to hear about true love, why Harlequin makes money? That's what my poems to Kathleen are about. You can read a few more if you click on the "Niederngasse" link in my post.


    Craig Erick

  3. Your words on self-esteem sound very familiar to the ones rattling in my own head since age 12. I still struggle, but as with you, love from without helps.

    Really liked the poem. Well hammered and polished.

  4. Thank you, Michael.

    Good to have you drop by.


  5. I enjoyed reading here - your words are clever, inviting, and I actually read this twice. ;)


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