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Sam Vaknin: Through My Poetry (link in description)

Uploaded 8/17/2020, approx. 14 minute read

It has been 11 years since I opened this YouTube channel, and 25 years since I have written my first article about narcissism, an article in which I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse, among many others.


And today what I would like to do is to take you on a magical mystery tour of one narcissism.

Guess who?

Me, of course.

And I'm going to do that in a bit of an unusual way. I'm going to do it through my poetry. I'm going to read to you my poems.

Yes, he writes poetry, this thing. It speaks. I write poetry, I publish my poetry, and I won many international awards for my poetry.

But today I'll try to minimize the bragging. It's not easy. Still, I would like to take you on a tour of some highlights in my life and much more importantly in my mind to give you a greater insight and a greater understanding.

I'm not talking about compassion. I'm not talking about pity. I'm not talking about empathizing.

Just insight, understanding of what makes a narcissist think.

Many of my experiences are very typical of narcissists.

And a warning, a lot of the imagery you may find disturbing and some of it, perhaps the bulk of it, you may find triggering.

This is a dark forest we are about to enter together.

So hold on to my hand and never ever let go.

They say with a knowing smile, if he is really a narcissist, how come he writes poetry?

They say words are the sounds of emotions. He claims to have no emotions.

They are smug. They are comfortable in their well-classified world, my doubters and my haters.

But I use words as other people use algebraic signs. Algebraic signs with meticulousness, with caution, with the precision of an artisan. I sculpt in words. I stop. I tilt my head. I listen to the echoes, to the music, the tables of emotional resonance, the fine-tuned reverberations of pain, of love, of fear.

Words are airwaves. They are photonic ricochets answered by chemicals secreted in my listeners and in my readers in you.

I know beauty. I've always known beauty in the biblical sense, I could say. Beauty was my passionate mistress. We made love. We procreated the cold children of my texts. I measured its aesthetics admiringly.

But you see, this is the mathematics of syntax and grammar. It was merely the undulating geometry of syntax and grammar.

Am I devoid of all emotions as I watch your reactions with a sated amusement of a Roman nobleman?

Perhaps. Perhaps you are my gladiators in the coliseum of my construction.

I once wrote, my world is painted in shadows of fear and sadness and perhaps they are related.

I fear the sadness. To avoid the overweening sepia melancholy that lurks in the dark corners of my being, I deny my own emotionsand I deny them vehemently, thoroughly, with a single-mindedness of a survivor.

I persevere by dehumanizing myself. I automate my processes and gradually parts of my flesh turn into metal.

I stand there, exposed to shearing winds, as grandiose as my own disorder.

I write poetry because I need to. I write poetry to gain attention, it's true, to secure adulation, to fasten on to the reflection in the eyes of others and to misconstrue all this as my ego.

It's all very true. My words are pyrotechnics, fireworks, formulas of resonance, the periodic table of healing and abuse.

But having said all this, in view of this, in full view of this disclaimer, these are dark poems, penumbral poems, a wasted landscape of pain ossified, of scarred remnants of emotions.

You see, there's no horror in abuse. The terror is in the endurance, in the dreamlike detachment from one's own existence that follows abuse.

People around me feel my surrealism. They're back away from me, as they would from a nightmare. They're alienated, they're discomfited by the limpid placenta of my virtual reality.

And now I'm left alone. And now I write umbilical poems, as other people would converse.

You remember that the narcissist, that there are two developmental pathways to pathological narcissism.

In early childhood, the narcissist can be idolized, put on a pedestal, instrumentalized, idealized, pampered, smothered, spoiled, can do no wrong. That's one pathway to narcissism.

But there's another one. And that other pathway to narcissism involves life-threatening abuse, screams at night, involves breach of boundaries, involves the terror of a hostile parent, a parent who wishes you dead, psychologically dead, and sometimes, like in my case, physically dead. And this, too, is a developmental pathway to narcissism. And this leads to my first poem of the day.

In the concentration camp called home. In the concentration camp called home, we report in striped pajamas to the barefoot commandant. Our mother orchestrating, our mother orchestrating, our daily Holocaust, borrowing her fingernails through my palms, a scream frozen between us, stalactite of terror in the green caves of her eyes, their sentence to forced labor, to mine her veins of hatred, to shovel her contempt, to pile scorn upon scorn, beatings, a puff.

And at noon, our mother leads us to the chambers, naked, ripples of flesh, and she turns on the gas and watches our hunger as her food devours us.

And of course, when you grow in such an environment together with siblings, and you're the eldest, you're the firstborn, and some of them are considerably younger than you, you develop protective instincts when your parents are predators, when they are psychotic, where they are dangerous. Insane. You develop protective instincts.

And this is a poem I wrote about my brother cutting to existence. My little brother cuts himself into existence with razor tongue. I try to shave his pain.

But when he comes home, he wouldn't listen. His ears, a woollen screams, the wrath of harpies breaking to the surface, his own red art. When he cups his bleeding hands, the sea of our wells in my eyes, wells in his veins, like common salt.

Sometimes when the abuse gets too much, when you can't cope anymore, as a child, remember, you know, my abuse lasted from age 4 to age 16. When you can't cope anymore and so on, you develop your own private religion.

The false self is a kind of god-like figure. The false self is supposed to protect you, to isolate you, to fend off the pain, to firewall you, to pain-proof you.

And in those times, religious metaphors come very handy. And it was during one of these episodes that I wrote the miracle of the kisses. That night, the cock denied him thrice.

His mother and the whore downloaded him, nails etched into his palms, his thorny forehead glistening, his body spared. He wanted to revive unto their moisture.

But the nauseating scents of vinegar and Roman legionnaires, the dampness of the cave, and then that final stone, his brain wide open, supper digested, that was to have been his last.

He mis-saw his disciples, the miracle of their kisses, and he was determined to not decompose.

And then I grew up, and at a very late age, I discovered women, and I craved their company, their intimacy, their smells, their warmth, their acceptance, possibly as the mother I never had. Possibly just because, after all, I'm a man, believe it or not.

And so, here are a few poems about my experience with women.

Prowling. The little things we do together to give up life, the percolating coffee, your aromatic breath, the dream that glues your eye leads to my cheek. We both relent relentlessly. Your hair flows to its end, a natural cascade, a velvet avalanche. It buries my hands. In motion paralyzed, we prowl each other's hunting rounds.

Daybreak, daybreaks, our backs turn to the light in dark refusal.

I need to know you, even as I never know myself. That phantom ache of amputated innocence, you, the stirrings of a curtain, dust settling on sepia, hookoo clocks, covers obscuring.

And perhaps, one day, you will become a benign sentence, an agency through which to be.

When you wake the morning, red-headed children shimmer in your eyes.

The vainness map of sun-drenched eyelids flutters, throbbing topography.

Your muscles ripple. Scared animals burrow under your dewy skin.

Frozen light sculptures where wrinkles dwell. Embroidered shades in thick main tapestry.

Your lips depart in scarlet, flesh to withering flesh. And breath in curved tranquility escapes the flaring nostrils.

Your warmth invades my sweat. Your lips leave skin, regards on my humidity.

Eyelashes clash.

Snowflake haiku.

Where I begin, your end. Snowflake haikus melt into crystalline awareness.

I guard your quivered sleep. Your skin beats moisture.

The beckoning jugular that is your mind. My pointing teeth.

A universe of frozen, sharp relief. The icy darts your voice in my inebriated veins in yours.

The motif of children keeps cropping up in my poetry, possibly because I have none.

I never had a chance. Despite appearances, never had a willing part.

So here's another of these child-infused poems. A Hundred Children.

Tell me about your sunshine and the sounds of coffee and of bare feet pounding the earthen floor. The creaking trees and the skinned memory of hugs that you gave and you received.

Sit down. Yes, here. The intermittent sobbing of the shades slit by your golden face.

Now listen to the hundred children that are your womb. I am among them.

In moist propinquity. Hemmed in our bed in moist propinquity. Tis night and starry and the neighborhood inebriated in the vomit area of our street.

A woman. A woman. My stone-faced lover. A woman and her smells. The yellow haze of melancholy lampposts. Your hair consumes you.

So I'm getting to terms with my age. I know that soon it would be time to say goodbye. I have accomplished what I could, despite my handicaps and disabilities.

And there are many. And they're not small.

But I fought them as valiantly as I could.

And so now I'm a bleached stalactite.

Time has arrived. Time is here.

Oh, Sam. But the snow is great. And you, bleached stalactites, shredded your loved ones into a ticker-tape parade, confetti aftermath of distant glories.

Seek transit. Now that you're melting, there is no one left to gather your holy water and to exercise the demons in the empty cave that you had become.

Oh, Sam. Oh, Sam. It is time already.

Getting old. The saging flesh. A wrinkled vice-dome. The veined reverberation of a life consumed.

On corneas imprinted with a thousand dreams, now staged the numeral place, directed by a sight receding and a brain enraged. To fall as curtains call. To bow the lust. Render the sepia image in a camera obscured. A line of credits, fully exhausted, fully endured.

In my narcissism, the toxic waste of bottled anger venomized. Life barely up. The reeds.

The wind is hissing, death downstream. A river holds its vapor breath. And leaves, black lips of tar and fish, a bloated shore.

Strolling in the boneyard of my life, bleached dreams, the mentored ossuary of my insights.

On flaking fence posts impaled the child that I had been.

Peering from desiccated sockets, the plague that's me, dust irrigated, arid tombstones, a being eclipsed.

Stage one, receding, jettisoned. Stage two, exiled velocity. Stage three, stage three, the armored carapace.

In glinted envelope, pulsating, rarefied, a fiery launch that crumbles into velvet silence.

No calm, no calm, an impact. Just a star rush, purifying milky veins, expired, crater-ridden scars.

What's in your call sign? Freedom, friendship, faith? None, I think.

I am over. I am out. An iron shell. Tons in a matchbox. Phrenetic revolutions, ravers, the stellar remnant of collapse.

Attend my woods, part shadow, part man that I am.

The textured leaves. Master's existence is very dreamlike, nightmarish in a way.

It's like he's trapped in kind of jellied amber. He's trying to break loose, get in touch. With what? Who knows? He definitely doesn't.

And so I wrote self-dream.

At times, I dream myself besieged. I rebel with the cunning of the weak. I walk the shortcuts.

Tormentors clad in blood-soaked black salute as I manipulate them into realizing their abyss.

Some weep their sockets hollow or wave their thorns, much pain negotied. A trading of the wounds.

My chains carved metal, and I am branded.

I wrote an apology to the woman who shared my life and her life with me, and I wrote to her years ago.

Sometimes I watch you from behind, your shoulders avian, a flutter, your ruby hands, the feet that carry you to me, and then away.

I know I wrong you. Your eyes black pools, your skin eruptions of what is and could have been.

I vow to make you happy, but my hudged back self just, just tolls the bells and guards you from afar.

In the wasteland that is me, you flower. Your eyes black petals strewn across the tumbling masonry. Your stem resists my winds, your roots deep in my soil, toiled in myrrh to feed both you and me, to nurture us.

And every day a spring, and every morn, a sunshine. You are in my garden. You blossom day and night. Your sculpted daint feels in my hands like oneness.

So much is left unsaid between us. Your crests of silence fallen on my shores of pain.

And this is where I live. The city laces its inhabitants in shades of grey. Oppressively close to the surface, some of us duck, others simply walk carefully, our shoulders stooped, trying to avoid the monochrome rainbow, somewhere over at the end of the hesitant drizzle. The city reigns itself on us, impaled on 100 towers, on a thousand immolated golden domes.

And we pretend to not see as it bleeds into the river. We just cross each other in ornate street corners, ambushed from behind, dilapidated structures. We don't nod our heads politely anymore.

We are not sure whether they will stay connected to our lulling bodies if we did.

It is at such times that I remember an especially sad song interlaced with wailing.

And so wall after wall, turret after turret, I revisit her.

It is there in that city, which is not Muslim, not Jewish or Christian, not entirely modern, nor decidedly antique, that I met her and I met the pain.

And so we are ships that pass in pitch darkness, blowing horns of despair and need, trying to avoid the inevitable collision of intimacy, the lifeboats of cheating and emotional absenteeism at the ready.

There is no moon on our ocean, just the churning waves of loneliness. The froth of our relationship sprayed thin across our lives as insubstantial as the dream world that we call our mind.

Lone seagulls of pity oversee us, necklaced albatrosses of empathy and love. Phosphorus fish gaze up, their mouths agape at our oddness.

And at times we shipwreck, outcast on our islands, and we wander at the exoticism of ourselves, the hopelessness of memory.

Such strange beasts we are, such miracles once in our lifetimes, a roll of DNA or an experiment gun or eye.

And so we set sail into penumbral seas in a doomed quest for sun, for flowers.

And yet it is our forlornness that renders us so painfully beautiful to behold, even in the absence of any light.

Thank you for listening and for joining the tour. I apologize for my accent. I placed the link to my poetry in the description, just in case you want to understand what the hell was I talking about.

See you next time. Stay tuned.

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