Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Naked

I’d rather wear the mask

than listen to you laugh.


How does it feel?

Bob Dylan asks.


The mask is fixed as wax

figures trapped behind glass. But


the me inside the mask can grow,

a garden breaking through the snow,

like Mary’s bells and cockle shells,

the forests of Thoreau.


Can rise and fall like dough.


Can feel a pinprick, feel a rock flicked

towards my eyes or nose.

Can feel an icy, cold wind blow

and whip. Can feel a sun-warmed

river’s flow.


Can feel


how it feels to know

the answer is yes although the teacher said no,

although my mother said no,

although my brother said no,

although my father, my sister, my friends said no

to the question if I am doing okay.

But what else can I expect them to say?

I took off my painted on smile.


How does it feel,


Bob Dylan asks,

to see your real

face, unmasked?


I frown:

I’m not drowning in sadness.

I shout:

I’m not boiling madness.

I’m full.


I’m alive.

I’m teeming with gladness.

I’m an ever-expanding canvas

embedded with motley gifs

and electric guitar riffs:

I’m a symphony

that changes every single day;

I’m a masterpiece

re-presented ten thousand thirty seven ways.

The paint flies and the orchestra plays.

Christina sang it,

I’m beautiful in every single way.


And I can see

there’s both an I and a me:

the one they see, the other sees;

I see them, they see me.

That they see me does worry I,

so I hides me:


for sometimes I sees what others can’t see;

I worries that voicing her views will cause me

to be seen by others as an object at sea—

foreign, distant, stranded, and weird:

a strange little object, one to be feared.

I worries that, from others’ lives, me will be disappeared.


I would rather wear the mask

than listen to them laugh at me.


I would rather wear the mask,

then listen to them laugh at me.


I would rather wear the mask then—

listen to them laugh at me.


I covers me with a mask. Because it doesn’t really matter

if they laugh; it’s only a mask.


But I wonders, is it they who laugh?

Or is it their masks?


Does they covers them with a laughing mask?

Because it doesn’t really matter

if they laugh; it’s only a mask.


How does it feel, Bob Dylan asks,


to hide behind a clown’s mask:

to never hear yourself, or anyone else,

really laugh?


It never matters

when it’s only a mask, fixed as wax

figures, protected from ego-iconoclasts

behind glass.

When I hides me, they both die

a little bit; I is me, me is I.


We’re one evolving symphony,

that sees and is seen constantly.


They was never laughing anyway.


I feel

the weight of being the me that everyone else expects to see

slip away.


They were never laughing anyway.


I take off the mask and I am free:

not forced to maintain that duality

of that outer self

that’s plastic and sticks—

to what everyone else deemed is correct

and agrees with their opinions, unchecked—

and that inner self

that questions—and kicks

itself, fearing its being drastic

by questioning

and hides behind molded plastic;

I sit beneath the Joshua tree,

naked, alone, just I and me.


How does it feel to see you're real?

I feel fantastic.


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