by Julie Ziolkowski

Masks to hide
masks to confuse.
Under the guise of something else.
You grow into your mask,
a turtle in his shell.
It’s protection;
It becomes you.

But shed the mask,
that shields your face,
and who are you now?
Raw and new
Masks are weakness,
Something to hide the flaws underneath.

But to toss your mask
is to reveal yourself,
Truly and completely.
The self you hope others
With their own masks still concealing,
love all the same

At least with your mask, firmly in place,
they hate something else, not truly you.
It doesn’t hurt so much,
when they turn away, laughing.
Or drift far apart like ripples to the stone.

Or like a crab,
does the mask become our true self?
Hardening over time
Until we can no longer be free
of its once desired protection?