“The Fair Nun Unmasked” by Henry Robert MorlandHiding Behind a Mask: Five Poems by Anna J. Arredondo The Society December 12, 2019 Beauty, Culture, Poetry, Villanelle 17 Comments Intruders Beware If you but knew what weakness lies concealed Within this adamantine outer shell— What woes, what worries I’m too proud to tell; If you but once should tiptoe past this shield, Sidestep the anger I so fiercely wield In my defense; if you should break the spell, Subdue the guards, and dip into the well Of insecurities therein revealed; I say, if you could catch me thus unsteeled: One gentle smile my deepest fears would quell; One loving glance from you—what hopes would swell— One touch, and all within me would be healed. __Instead I growl, “Keep out! That’s all I ask,” __Then hate you for not seeing past my mask. Impenetrable I may smile when I’m feeling quite friendly, I may laugh when I’m feeling amused; I will lift up a brow when I’m skeptical, And I’ll furrow my brow when confused. But too often there comes an emotion Or a thought I don’t wish to reveal, And I have to maneuver my countenance All my innermost face to conceal. Now, to shelter a heart full of sorrow, A smile is a flimsy disguise; And though laughter would mimic true happiness, There’s a different tale told by the eyes. Lifted brows cannot cover anxiety; Furrowed brows cannot quite cover fear, So I’m seeking a better alternative To prevent folks from coming too near. Seems the mask that most suits me is anger, For it covers a whole host of things: Trepidation, disgust, insecurity, And embarrassment with all its stings; Then there’s heartbreak, despondence and sorrow, Hidden jealousy, faulty conjecture— While my face wears the storm cloud of anger, Nosy people won’t poke, prod, or lecture. Even so, I keep backup masks handy, Like indifference, or outright disdain; Should you manage to see through my subterfuge?— There’s one mask that will always remain, Because now that I’ve told you my secret, You might wait for the “wrath” to subside; But you still cannot see what’s inside of me Till you get past the mask of my pride. Dropping the Act “I’m NOT okay!”—thus all my being cries; Yet from some social duty, I would hide My rash reactions, and I would disguise My inconformities with masks of pride. I’m NOT okay! Why should I feign to be? Confined, imprisoned, no escape I find— No place to go, from observation free, To sort through all the turmoil in my mind. I’m NOT okay! Nor shall I be in fact Until I find release—to cry, to shout; Lest I explode, I need to drop the act And siphon all this soulish venom out. __May cleansing, grace, and peace be mine, I pray, __As I at last confess, “I’m NOT okay!” You Have My Word a villanelle I write the things that I would never say, The errors that I care not to commit; I wish that I could find a better way. To hide a matter (much to my dismay) I find my tongue is utterly unfit: I write the things that I would never say And speak a lie to keep the truth at bay, But even so, there’s no escaping it; I wish that I could find a better way. My mouth is bent each feeling to betray, So, seeking its rash penchant to remit, I write the things that I would never say— Write in the sand, and never stone or clay, Erasing words again as I see fit— I wish that I could find a better way. My words, though black and white, blur into gray, Meanings concealed in clever guise and wit; I wish that I could find a better way— I write the things that I would never say. Grins and Lies Should someone chance to catch a glimpse, __Through my unguarded eyes, Of those dim regions where the shadows lurk, I quickly yank the shutters down, __Then straighten my disguise, And minimize the damage with a smirk. Anna J. Arredondo grew up in Pennsylvania, where she fell in love with poetry from a young age. After living in Mexico for six years, during which time she met and married her husband, she returned to Pennsylvania for one more decade. An engineer by education, home educator by choice, and poet by preference, she relocated in 2017 and currently resides in Westminster, CO with her husband and three school-age children. Anna has recently had poems published in The Lyric and Time of Singing. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 17 Responses Amy Foreman December 12, 2019 It is a pleasure to read such metrically-precise poetry, Anna! I especially enjoyed “Intruders Beware:” the couplet at the end is just perfect . . . as is the ending line of “Impenetrable:” “Till you get past the mask of my pride.” Just one question: were there supposed to be five poems here? I only see four. Would love to see a final poem . . . Reply C.B. Anderson December 12, 2019 Amy, I am glad that there are a few of us left who find pleasure in impeccable meter. Reply Joseph S. Salemi December 13, 2019 “Intruders Beware” is especially striking in its structure, as the poet has written three quatrains in an identical ABBA rhyme scheme. That takes real craft. Anna J. Arredondo December 12, 2019 Thank you for your comment, Amy. As a lover of metrical precision I am always pleased to have it recognized! Yes, there is a fifth poem which has gone mysteriously AWOL. Hopefully it will turn up soon. I sent an email… Reply The Society December 19, 2019 Amy, you are very right! An editorial error. The fifth has been added at the end. My apologies to Anna. -Evan Reply C.B. Anderson December 12, 2019 Anna, I quite enjoyed your forays into social phenomenology. Our masks too often chafe and pinch, but trans-personal interactions often require a bit of censorship, deliberate or automatic, to keep social exchanges lubricated, though I think that having a heart without guile would be a better way to go about it. There are reasons we we our hearts inside our rib cages and not out on our sleeves. Reply C.B. Anderson December 12, 2019 In the last line of my comment, “we we” should be “we wear.” Reply Monty December 12, 2019 I bow to your unswerving honesty, Anna. Many contributors to these pages share their sentiments with us (some seemingly more felt than others) in their poetry; but none – in the two years I’ve been observing – have ever truly bared their soul in the way you have above. Without even thinking about it, I know for sure that I’ve never read such heartfelt words on these pages . . and it’d be good to think that they may encourage others to be a tad more revealing in their poetry (instead of worn-out subjects such as the seasons, sunsets or Shakespeare). Some of the most renowned English-speaking poets in recent centuries gained their renown for the honesty in their poetry; for revealing their deepest and innermost thoughts when the majority held back. Some done so when their society wasn’t quite ready for such honesty, and were widely ignored in their lifetime, dying penniless; and only gaining their renown posthumously, when readers were more enlightened. All of this makes your above poems unique just in the subject matter alone: but when one adds to that how well-written they are; the generous use of language; the consistent fluidity of the diction; the fact that they contain not even one questionable rhyme; the fact that they contain several single-lines or couplets worthy of being extracted to stand in their own right . . . I feel that all this combined makes this to be poetry of the highest order. Regarding the first piece alone, ‘Intruders’ . . I can truly say that if I was reading an anthology of renowned poets, and came across this piece . . it wouldn’t seem out of place in the slightest. It’s just immaculate poetry in every poetic sense and discipline. It’s so well worded (“..tiptoe past this shield, sidestep the anger..”) with a quality punch in the final line. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece! I bow to you again, Anna: you are the real thing . . with a real talent . . and real courage. Reply C.B. Anderson December 12, 2019 Well said, Monty. And I see that you are receptive to confessional poetry. Reply Monty December 12, 2019 Is that an official term, CB: ‘confessional poetry’? If it is, then yeah.. I must be into it. But I simply just like the honesty which comes from bare-it-all poetry: it seems to draw me in. That’s why I’ve always had an affinity with the likes of Stevie Smith, Philip Larkin, Leonard Cohen (his poetry, not his songs), Sylvia Plath and, to a lesser extent, Charles Bukowski. But ‘confessional’ is only one aspect of Anna’s poems; they’ve got so many other attributes on top of that: especially clarity of diction. I already knew she wrote prose fluidly (due to our recent feline exchange) but now I know more. Anna J. Arredondo December 12, 2019 Thank you both for your comments. Certainly some amount of dissimulation or “filter” is necessary for lubricating social exchanges, especially casual ones among mere acquaintances or strangers. Applied in moderation, it is known as tact, and generally appreciated. But it is surprisingly difficult to “remove the mask” under any circumstances. I find that, while I may hide my true self or feelings or weaknesses or whatnot from certain people as a means of self-protection, I have a similar difficulty in removing it even with those nearest and dearest. If I manage to admit that I’m not okay, I immediately want to brush it off and make light of it so that they won’t worry. Complicated stuff, this human soul… It’s funny, but I feel that writing poetry such as the above, rather than truly unmasking me, serves simply to make the mask more closely and precisely resemble the face it is hiding. I find that my words, carefully and consciously chosen, can give quite an accurate portrayal of reality, while there still remains a thin facade to hide behind. For example, I would much rather confess (with a smile) to a friend that I had bawled my eyes out, than to have them see me in the act. Or describe an embarrassing incident in my own way, rather than having eyewitnesses. The words still serve as a kind of mask, however lifelike and realistic that mask may be… I wonder when the fifth poem will show up. Anna J. Arredondo December 12, 2019 Monty, I had to chuckle at your reference to “our recent feline exchange.” Reply C.B. Anderson December 12, 2019 Monty, As I understand it, confessional poetry usually deals with actual items in a poet’s private life, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. This is opposed to “pure” poetry which should only be considered as fictive artifact. Some writers go back and forth, while others give us excessively emotive ramblings that make us wish we’d never read them. Perhaps the standard here should be honesty versus nudity. Reply Angel L Villanueva December 13, 2019 Anna, I thoroughly enjoyed your beautiful poems, and I’m in awe of the rhythm and meter that shines from each line. I’m still learning to write in meter and rhyme, having switched from free verse less than two years ago. So for me, reading such wonderful poetry is not only enjoyable, but also inspiring and very much an education. Truly delightful. Reply Anna J. Arredondo December 13, 2019 Thank you, Angel, for your generous praise. I remembered your name, so I went back several posts to double-check. I particularly liked the sentiment in “Should Words Fail Me” and the irony in “Long is a Poet’s Night” (though I didn’t comment at the time). You haven’t wasted your time the past year or two, but are doing quite admirably in your quest! This site is invaluable for being inspired by the works of others and for gleaning helpful insights from all the feedback. Happy writing! Reply David Watt December 13, 2019 Anna, I will only add that I also find great skill in the way you have crafted these pieces. As a bonus, your honesty and directness of expression provide the sparkle of personality which is sometimes missing in poetry. Reply Monty December 29, 2019 I can see how SOME amount of dissimulation must be useful for “lubricating social exchanges”; but only (as you say) “casual ones.. with acquaintances or strangers” . . as opposed to exchanges with close friends. I was surprised to hear you say that you have “similar difficulty in removing it (the mask) even with those nearest and dearest”; I wonder if that might indicate that there ISN’T a mask.. and that’s just who you are! Which is not necessarily a bad thing . . as long as you can justify your anger. If you feel you’re right to get angry over the things you get angry over: be angry . . flaunt it. I don’t read papers or watch telly, ‘coz I don’t wanna know about all the vile shit going on in the world (I’m aware of it in general anyway; without having to see and read it every day); but I know that if I WAS to read/watch it on a daily basis . . I’d be angry. Constantly angry at all the injustices. And my anger would be justified. And if someone asked: I’d willingly and unashamedly admit my anger. See what I’m saying, Anna? If you can justify your anger: be angry. If you CAN’T justify it, and you get angry over things for which there’s absolutely no need, and you know there’s no need . . that’s a different thing altogether; a deeper complexity of the soul; and a lot more difficult to come to terms with. But if you CAN justify it . . maybe it’s better to just go with it instead of fighting it armed with a mask. Your “nearest and dearest” would soon learn (if they haven’t already) to also ‘go with it’. Your suggestion that “writing poetry serves to make the mask resemble more closely the face it’s hiding” makes complete sense to me. John Lydon (in the 70’s British band ‘The Sex Pistols’) wrote the lyric (subsequently used as a chorus in a song) ‘Anger is an energy’. I’ve never forgotten that line; and the older I’ve got, the truer it’s become (ideally, it’d be worded as ‘anger can be an energy). Thus, in your case, Anna, maybe the anger provides the energy for you to write poetry. The mask doesn’t write the poetry . . the face it’s hiding does. So, dispense with the mask! Some of the most famous poets, artists, etc down the centuries have produced their best work when their personal life was at its most turbulent and troubled. That’s just how it is sometimes. Also, one should never lose sight of the opposite side of the coin; those humans in the western-world (especially on your side of the pond) who appear to never be angry.. who give the permanent impression of being friendly.. with their perfectly-rehearsed false laughs.. their false smiles.. their false and inane small-talk.. their classic American ‘Have a nice day’ (through gritted teeth) . . . many of them are REALLY angry underneath their masks. THEY are the ones not be trusted. Like you say, it’s “complicated stuff, this soul”: SO complicated, SO complex, SO unfathomably deep . . which are the very reasons for my longstanding fascination with it. And when things are that deep – beyond our depth of understanding – then we can’t beat it. And if we can’t beat it, we shouldn’t fight it. Be angry . . . be honestly angry. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. 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