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.