The Mask - Don't Be Fooled By Me
I love this poem! It describes many of us so well.

Behind the Facade
Please Hear What I Am Not Saying

Don't be fooled by me
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them are me.
Pretending is an art that's second nature to me
For God's sake, don't be fooled.
I give the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me...
within as well as without...
that confidence is my name,
and coolness is my game.
That the water's calm and I'm in command,
but don't believe me...Please.

My surface may seem smooth
but my surface is my mask.
Beneath this lies no complacence,
beneath dwells the real me in confusion,
in fear and aloneness.
But I hid this. I don't want anybody to know it.
and fear for being exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind...
a nonchalant, sophisticated facade...
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
and I know it.
That is - if it is followed by acceptance...
if it is followed by love.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself...
that I am worth something.
But I don't tell you this. I don't dare.
I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by
acceptance and love.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me...
that you'll laugh at me and
your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep down I'm nothing-
that I'm no good,
and that you will see this and reject me,
So I play my game--my desperate game
with a facade of assurance without,
and a trembling child within.
And so begins the parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
Make it Happen! :-)
That is a powerful poem. It would be interesting to know the circumstances under which it was written. It could refer to 100% of the population.

Certainly to single people who "put on a happy face" when they may feel lonely and unsure of themselves inside. (Has anyone read Margaret Lawrence's "A Jest of God". This poem describes the main character, Rachel Cameron.)

Certainly it would be true for many married folks who "put on a happy face" in public but whose relationships are completely bankrupt, empty, lonely prisons. (Has anyone read Margaret Lawrence's "The Stone Angel". This poem describes the married life of Hagar Shipley.)

Certainly for gay and lesbian people who "put on a happy face" when they feel completely alone and misunderstood within their congregations. (Don't think Margaret wrote about this.)

Do you know anything about this poem's background?
The original poem was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1896. Since that time many, many others have adapted it and rewritten it. So I'm not sure who wrote the one above. I would have given them credit if I knew who wrote this particular one.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

The above poem appeared in Dunbar's first professionally published volume, Lyrics of Lowly Life, in 1896 by Dodd, Mead, and Company. It also appeared in the volume Majors and Minors from the previous year. It can be found, for example, in:

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Joanne M. Braxton, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.
Abcarian, Richard, and Marvin Klotz, eds. Literature: The Human Experience (Shorter Fourth Edition with Essays). New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
Make it Happen! :-)
Thanks for the info.
surveyor Wrote:(Has anyone read Margaret Lawrence's "A Jest of God". This poem describes the main character, Rachel Cameron.)

(Has anyone read Margaret Lawrence's "The Stone Angel". This poem describes the married life of Hagar Shipley.)

I'm interested in knowing more about this author, Margaret Lawrence. Is she a poet only, or does she also write prose?

This Paul Lawrence Dunbar poem is also beautiful.
Thanks for posting it.

Here is the information I found on Margaret Lawrence:

Margaret Laurence

. . . May we lean
One upon another
Give and receive loving strength
And may we learn
We are one
People in our only home

(excerpt from "Prayer for Passover and Easter; Hannukah
and Christmas" by Margaret Laurence, 1985)
Obtained from the Margaret Laurence Home, Neepawa, Manitoba.


Jean Margaret Wemyss, was born at Neepawa, Manitoba on July 18, 1926. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father subsequently married his wife's sister, a teacher and librarian. With her encouragement, young "Peggy" began writing stories at the age of seven. When she was nine, Laurence's father, Robert, died. The family moved into the home of the maternal grandfather. While living with her Grandfather Simpson, Laurence completed her secondary school education in Neepawa and obtained her first writing job as a reporter for the Neepawa Press in the summer of 1943. In 1944, she graduated from high school and began attending the United College in Winnipeg. She worked as the assistant editor of the college newspaper before graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1947.

In September of the same year, she married Jack Laurence, a hydraulic engineer. For a period she worked as a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press. Then, in 1949, they moved to England. The following year, Jack's work took them to British Somaliland and, two years later, to Ghana. Their daughter, Jocelyn was born in 1952 in England between the two postings and their son, David, was born in Ghana in 1955. Laurence's earliest major literary works were based on her experiences in Africa.

In 1957 the family returned to Canada, settling in Vancouver. In 1962 Laurence and the children moved to the village of Penn in Buckinghamshire (30 miles from London). Margaret and Jack Laurence were divorced in 1969.

After establishing a summer home on the Ontonobee River in the early 1970's, Laurence returned to live permanently in Lakefield, Ontario in 1973. She was active in organizations promoting the cause of world peace, particularly in Project Ploughshares. She was awarded the Order of Canada and honorary degrees by fourteen Canadian universities. For three years she was chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. She died at Lakefield on January 5, 1987.

Margaret Laurence's Literary Works:

A Tree for Poverty (1954) - Translation of Somali Poetry
This Side Jordan (1960) - Novel
The Tomorrow-Tamer (1963) - Short Stories
The Prophet's Camel Bell (1963) - Memoir
The Stone Angel (1964) - Novel
A Jest of God (1966) - Novel
Long Drums and Cannons (1968 ) - Study of Nigerian Literature
The Fire-Dwellers (1969) - Novel
A Bird in the House (1970) - Short Stories
Jason's Quest (1970) - Children's Book
Diviners (1974) - Novel
Heart of a Stranger (1976) - Essays
Six Darn Cows (1979) - Children's Book
The Olden Days Coat (1979; revised 1982) - Children's Book
A Christmas Birthday Story (1980) - Children's Book
Dance on the Earth (1989) - A Memoir

The website is:
Make it Happen! :-)
Thank you for this bio on Margaret Laurence. I'd never heard of her or her work before, and she sounds like a talented writer. The links make it possible to buy some of her books from Amazon. Great!

I'm going to put this on my "To Do" list. Thank you, Darlene!
Jeanie, I don't know where you live, but if you're in Canada your public library should have most of Margaret Lawrence's books. She is (was) quite famous as one of our Great Canadian Writers. If you want to buy them, you can often find them in second hand book stores.
Thanks, surveyor. No, I'm not in Canada. Southern California, actually. But I like Margaret Lawrence anyway, and I'll look for some of her books. --Just as soon as I get finished with the projects I'm working on already...!!

Thanks for sharing these poems. It has been just recent that the masks have started to disappear. I wore them for about 30 years. 6 years ago I was able to meet someone that helped me take the masks away. I can say I am on my way to true joy. There are still some struggles, but with God's help I am able to be myself. My identity is in Christ and His sacrifice to make me free.
So, are you still wearing your mask? Sorry, but I lost mine......:-)
Make it Happen! :-)

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