Friday, March 7, 2014

I Wore A Mask


“We come of age as masks...” - Rainer Maria Rilke
“We come of age as masks,”*
yet few seem to notice them.
Like a pair of glasses that sat too long
upon the bridge of the nose,
its presence forgotten.

I did not know I wore a mask,
so I could not take it off. For years and years.
I had the answers; the right things to say.
And as I grew I began
to realize how little all of that meant.
They were surface-only sayings
that could not find their way deep into comfort.
Comfort not to be mistaken with being comfortable
but a comfort that kindles hope for peace.

It is no small thing
to rip that mask off and fling it away.
It is everything to remove it-
to break away the casing that entombed my face for so long.
I look pale and sickly and frightened underneath.
The sunlight so beautiful and radiant
burns like hell because it is so new.
The raw skin tightens and turns crimson.
It is nearly unbearable.

I want to put the mask back on.

It feels like protection, safety.
It feels a lot more comfortable than pain.

But my face doesn’t want the mask anymore.
My face likes the freedom and the weathering.
My face could never feel a drop of cool rain
while the cast was in place.
And cool rain that runs freely
is nothing like the hot tears that channeled their way
into my covered mouth.

Sometimes I hold that mask before my face.
And I realize it is impossible to put back.
The curve of the smile is too high and forced.
The nose is too tight.
The cheekbones too sunken.
My face doesn’t match the mask anymore.
It has found nourishment.
It has grown.
And there is nothing artificial about the smile or the frown.

Only one thing remains the same.
The way the tears even yet spill salt onto my tongue.
I realize those tears were the one constant,
authentic part of myself. Perhaps they
can help me bridge the gap between old and new.
I welcome them to stay,
saying, “Tears. You are not my enemy. Make yourself at home.”

And they do.

I have been told that one day they will vanish.
Wiped away.
Gone.
Will I miss them?
It is quite possible.
Tears can be a gift.

The mask, on the other hand.
Well, it made me feel safe for awhile.
But now that it is off I can see it is rubbish.
Farewell, Unface. 


*From the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

2 comments:

  1. "My face doesn’t match the mask anymore. It has found nourishment. It has grown.
    And there is nothing artificial about the smile or the frown." This - I love it! May we all lose our masks and be our true selves.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amen. Our true selves, and our true words, are part of our purpose here. The world is missing out if we have to hide part of ourselves from it. And so are we.

    ReplyDelete

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