This Is The Mask…

At Writer’s Island, we were asked to write about masquerades. My main masquerade is in life… or it was, until I sorted out some details.


Confident of every move
My stylus firmly in the groove
A smile that says I’ll take the dare
This is the mask I sometimes wear

My wit, a whetstone-sharped knife
I’m lit by fire, devouring life
Yet no one can detect the tear
that rends the mask I sometimes wear

Late to parties, the first to leave
I’m shiny slick with joie de vive
But if you look with special care
You’ll see right through the mask I wear

That’s my candle, both ends burning
Dripping molten, careless yearning
My frozen face, makeup and hair
Mask the wear and tear of le guerre

But once I’m home and all alone
There’s no façade, no great unknown
My crippling doubt I never share
In public, I’ve a mask to wear

They’ll never see the stripped-down me
used by him when I was three
That little girl can only bear
to live behind the mask I wear

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore, Sharp Little Pencil

30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. leesis
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 03:39:52

    awesome Amy!

    (p.s. I never did get that email)


  2. vivinfrance
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 08:05:19

    Wonderful, wonderful poem. You’ve gone to the heart of the prompt. My favourite line: “Dripping molten, careless yearning”


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 26, 2010 @ 17:55:18

      Thanks, Viv. This is a poem about my former life, before mental health treatment and understanding God’s love for me! It’s so clear, I think, when you look at your past and see what went wrong… and thx also for acknowledging “the heart of the prompt.” Masks come in all forms! Amy


  3. versical
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 08:39:25


    Beneath the mask you’re wearing,
    There lies a crumpled heap,
    A mass of contradictions,
    That you’re desperate to keep,
    If only people knew you,
    A heap of sin and shame,
    They would surely shun you,
    They wouldn’t be to blame.

    As you keep on sinking,
    Into this pit of guilt,
    The devil has the victory,
    With all the lies he’s built,
    God doesn’t want to know you,
    He wouldn’t waste His time,
    So carry on your life of fear,
    Slide deeper in the slime.

    God loves you very deeply,
    He wants to hold you near,
    To bring light to your darkness,
    And banish all your fear,
    Through Jesus you have power,
    To change your sense of worth,
    And be just as He wants you,
    His child of joy and mirth.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 26, 2010 @ 17:38:46

      Thank you so much for this unbelievably sensitive, hopeful comment. It’s true – as I mentioned to Morgana, I have found the other side. This poem is based on my “former self,” who didn’t acknowledge God or Christ. Through opening myself to grace, I was able to humble myself and get the mental health treatment I so desperately needed. And it’s also true that church people (I grew up Anglican, American Episcopal but very, very “high”) are often the last to understand the “demons” of the Old and New Testaments were very often people suffering from mental disorders. I’m a pastor’s wife (Congregational United Church of Christ) and the daughter of a long line of manic depressives. Through therapy and psychiatry – and most importantly, BY FAITH, I have been released from these shackles and live a very active, productive life. Praise God!

      Bless you for being so poetic in your response. I’m deeply touched. Amy


  4. Morganna
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 15:54:19

    Wow. A powerful poem with a big kick at the end. Very nice.


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 26, 2010 @ 17:33:50

      And completely drawn from real life, thanks. Traces how I used to live before I had mental health treatment. Now I’m able to be fully integrated and see past events as ‘over there’ instead of “OH MY LORD IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!” Thank God for therapy, psychiatry (with a holistic edge) and NAMI Stigma Busters! Thanks, Morganna. Amy


  5. Deborah
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 18:10:17

    Such a strong, sad and heartfelt poem. I was so glad to read your replies…and so very pleased to know that you are not ‘there’ any more ….
    must also add, very well written! :-)


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 26, 2010 @ 18:17:58

      Deborah, thank you so much for your kind words! I’ll visit your site and see how you fared with the Jingle prompt. And thanks for the mention of my not being “there” anymore. Yes, this is a beautiful life I have. It always ways, in its own way, but now it is easier to live each day! Amy


  6. ana
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 18:46:54

    So tragic – so many people wear masks and oft times we don’t bother to look past the masks. I’m so happy to know that you found the love of Christ and were able to replace the mask with His perfect love. Beautifully written!


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 26, 2010 @ 23:01:26

      Ana, it’s true that the mask is gone. The memories may linger like a bad batch of stew, but it’s still “something that happened” now, and I would never have had the courage to face therapy and a good psychiatrist without the love of God. Thanks. Amy


  7. Gabriela Abalo
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 21:10:42

    your poem touches home… I know what are you talking about… I did wear one for very long time :(
    But now I’m just in love with who I am, so the mask is gone :)

    Thanks for stopping by my place and sharing your touching comment :)



  8. Mary
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 21:35:11

    Wonderful poem, Amy. Just a comment: I think the best mask is no mask at all, and it seems you’ve got that sorted out as well! You are who you are.


  9. sheila h
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 04:17:05

    there is a tender vulnerability in the words..
    if i close my eyes i truly am able to visualize a tiny girl,her fists are balled in defiance but her eyes are bright with fear hoping ,praying, never again to experience the hurt of abuse the poem unfolds the little girl opens those tiny fists ,releasing the anger ,surrendering to the love of salvation and embracing the truth that she is worthy,she is valued..
    one of your very best compositions,my dear friend….


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Oct 30, 2010 @ 06:35:06

      Sheila, I’m really touched by how much you wrote in response to this. I feel ever word of it, and having gone through it, I can look back at that mask and say, “Well, that happened. Now it’s over, and I’m on to my new life.” Amazing how many of us go through life with unearned guilt and shame and try to pretty it up into… something “worthy,” if you know what I mean. Acceptable. Social. Thanks so much for your words, S. I value your comments greatly. Amy


  10. Reflections
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 15:25:40

    Great write, much like the masks many of us wear each and every day… Well done.


  11. 1sojournal
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 17:58:25

    That little girl didn’t really want that mask. It is she who fuels your poem and celebrates now in the freedom you share.



  12. Strummed Words
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 21:43:37

    Wonderful poetry on the subject/ theme. Isn’t writing cathartic tho? The Masque


  13. shanegenziuk
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 23:16:21

    A short trail
    twists through a life
    into the parts that others will see
    yet far away
    into the hearth
    through trees and scrub and other things
    there is a secret place
    that no one else will ever reach
    surrounded by a shallow brook
    lapping over soft grass in seed
    and when you stare into the water
    there is a reflection staring back
    a kind of you that never left this place
    only knowing the outside world
    by the colours of your heart
    and I hope it sees
    only the beautiful ones


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      Nov 01, 2010 @ 05:24:53

      Shane, I’m touched by the thoughtfulness of your reply. The colors of my heart include many greys and browns – a result of my history of mental illness. But somehow, when I look at the reflection, the more vivid colors always manage to come to the fore. Thank you for this, you really made my night! Peace, Amy


  14. Amanda
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:32:38

    So many of us have worn a similar mask but only the individual knows what goes on behind their own mask… heart felt and poignant but also I loved the flow of this poem it never broke it’s stride superb job!


  15. uponthewingsofnight
    May 24, 2012 @ 05:32:33

    This poem is a testament to you abandoning the shadows cast by the mask and stepping into the light of salvation, seeing yourself for who you are and who you can be. Great work! Brett


    • Sharp Little Pencil
      May 28, 2012 @ 22:15:51

      This was one of the first posts in which I paired my mental disorders with “disguise,” the way one must act in society in order NOT to be deemed, as my mom used to say, “Nuttier than a fruitcake.” They’ve all gotten much franker since then, Brett. Thanks so much. Amy


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