by Louie Clay
Warning: Get a large salt shaker
and sprinkle all over your CRT.
More than a grain is required.
I’m glad you’ve gotten
lots of electronic hugs
I’ll take you to lunch
if you can show up here.
But I wonder whether you need
a harder kind of support?
To the extent that the person
remains rational, and that’s difficult
to determine, suicide seems to me
the severest form of a disease
that has long infested humanity,
especially disliked minorities,
the dis-Ease called Self-Pity.
I speak with the authority of a quean.
Self-pity is the only VD any quean requires.
Suicide is its most lethal manifestation.
Self-pity is a severe trap.
Take the version the alcoholic falls into.
“Nobody likes me,” she says.
And then drinks to excess.
“Yes, we do; we love you”
say some nearby.
“No, you just love your reputation
for being good guys. You’re nice
to me only because you pity me.
You do not really love me….”
That recording is broken, is broken, is broken, is….
“Oh, I’m the lowliest queer on the planet!
Life has not treated me fairly
and I have done a good job
of adding to the mess…..”
Tempting? I hope not.
I am not trained in psychology,
only in friendship;
so if you need psychological help,
treat yourself to a professional.
Otherwise listen to a friend who cares.
One of the saddest things about self-pity
is the enormous self-absorption it requires.
I have first-hand experience of self-pity;
that’s the source of my authority.
Sugar, it’s not worth the bother.
I remember when the rednecks
had just stoned our house
for the third night in a row.
The first two nights I ignored them,
thinking, “They’re just adolescents
with pubes starting to sprout.
They don’t know what they’re doing.”
But by the third night, I remembered
that Hitler Youth were just adolescents
sprouting pubes too, and groaned
“Why am I here stuck in Middle Georgia…?”
I snuggled close to my husband
and started to cry. He pushed me away.
“Boo hoo! Boo how! Boo WHO?”
and “Ha, ha, ha!” he said.
“What are you doing? Won’t you comfort me?”
“Not tonight, baby.
Where’s the man I married?
Quit worrying about those damn kids.
They’ll be there in every town
and on every block when you and I
are dead and gone. I don’t feel like
letting them control our bed tonight.
“Besides, you know how to make them
stop throwing rocks. You know
that you can quit going on TV
and writing articles. But do you want to?
Thank god, no. So show some
of the guts you’re made of.”
I slept like a baby after I found a healthier,
more adult way to get into his arms.
When we fall into self-pity,
we think we’re the only persons
in the world who’ve ever had it unfair.
How absurd! Especially if we’re U.S. citizens.
Most of the world is going to bed hungry tonight.
Even most Americans have not had anyone show them
the power and pleasures of the intellect
that you obviously know about
or you wouldn’t be able to write so clearly
or listen to this prose poem.
Slap yourself in the face to wake up
to the enormous possibilities you’re given.
Beware lest you come to like your pain.
Pain can make you feel real:
“I may be a bug. I may be a queer.
But at least I hurt; I know I am real….”
Find better ways to affirm your reality!
If you need a crying shoulder,
I have one, and you can rock
on my porch any afternoon.
But sugar, I hope you can find
your own inner strength
so that when you sit with me,
we can share and share alike.
Meanwhile, learn to laugh at yourself.
Schizophrenics never laugh at themselves.
Get enough rest.
Don’t do things that depress you.
Learn to take itsy bitsy steps
in controlling your own life,
then bigger steps as you can handle them.
Associate with people who will nurture you,
not just commiserate.
Hear Louie speak this poem:
Louie Clay (né Louie Crew) is the founder of Integrity and lives in East Orange, NJ with Ernest Clay, his husband of 40 years. He is the author of 2,375 published poems and essays.