manipulation: a poem

 it happens in phases
 first they’ll pretend to be your friend
 and they’ll compliment you
 and flatter you
 so that you let your guard down
 until they peel back enough layers
 that they find the pink in your flesh 
 then they bite
 and they rip
 and they smile
 as they pick your skin out of their teeth
 and they ask you
 what’s wrong?
 and you give them a cup of your blood to drink 
 then your skeleton stiffens 
 and you claw free
 there’s some back and forth
 an apology with far too many “you” words
 and things seem temporarily normal 
 before the chaos leaks back in 
 insanity repeats itself
 but now new phases are slowly introduced
 the compliments return
 but strictly in front of those jealous of you
 insincere or not
 (though they are)
 it makes no difference
 they’ll ensure you have no real allies
 while they praise your work ethic 
 and tell you how nice your hair looks
 when you can’t remember the last time you washed it
 they’ll seek out whoever remains in your corner
 and try to turn you against them
 since their other tactics didn’t work on everyone
 they’ll work to obliterate every lifeline
 and they’ll wait until you have no one left
 to stop the phase of insincere compliments
 they’ll tear you down 
 both behind your back and in front of everyone
 they’ll diminish every accomplishment of yours
 and your one defense
 is being better than them in everything you
 think, say, and do
 and let your work speak for itself
 because it won’t even be a comparison 
 after they’ve spent all their energy on you
 instead of channeling their energy
 towards improving themselves  
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

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