Our Masks/Ourselves: The Men of City Gospel Mission

Earlier this month, writer and teacher Annette Januzzi Wick offered me the privilege of writing with the men of City Gospel Mission who are part of her “Journey in Words” program. Formerly located in Annette’s neighborhood of Over the Rhine, it is now located around Crosley Field’s Home Plate, and is home to men seeking the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical skills and resources needed to achieve life transformation.

Our Masks/Ourselves
City Gospel Mission, March 2017

My mask sees lots of troubles, fences, mountains, thunderclouds.
I don’t want people to know my troubles or to burden them.
When you see my mask, you see what I want you to see.
Underneath there are mixed emotions:
creative, humble, impatient.
I need a girlfriend. I hate being alone.
My mask became my face because I wore it for so long.
A lie is a modified person.
I was wearing a mask of my lie.
When you see my mask you see what I want you to see.
A mask allows me to be seen,
and to give others the grace to be seen through
a lens of acceptability,
of respectability, of positivity.
We all want to be seen as we wish to be.
On rare occasions, I allow it to slip off—
somewhat confused, tentative, and unsure;
somewhat bold, funny, truthful.
Hurting, anxious, joyful, lonely, optimistic
Without my mask, you see a person that’s happy.
But I’m not because I’m not where I want to be right now.
The amount you see of me depends on who you are to me.
Without my mask I feel alone and vulnerable and unprotected. Too nice.
I feel most comfortable when I wear my mask.
When I remove my mask I am scared of the real world,
about responsibility,
about being sober and alone.
When you see my mask you don’t see the inner gears
of my constant worry, clicking, clacking,
wondering, adjusting, seeking.
When you see my mask you see a cover for comfort.
My mask sees loneliness,
struggle in the world.
My mask sees people who need me to be strong.
Without my mask I see predators.
As time goes on I choose my masks.
Who are they helping, me or others?
Don’t wear a mask.
Be who God has called you to be
and leave the results up to him.
I finally realized I didn’t need to be something I’m not.
It’s tiresome.
Without my mask I see a world
that wants to hold me, give me comfort.
I want to know “Me,”
to like what I see in the mirror now.
I know it’s my choice and I choose to be me,
clean and sober.

By participants in Annette Januzzi Wick’s City Gospel Mission Writing Group, March 2017.
Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Some Mask Pictures

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Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memorist, teacher and editor. On April 15, 2016 she was named Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate. Pauletta is author of five poetry collections, Tangle (Dos Madres Press, 2015), The Lives We Live in Houses (Wind Publications, 2011), What I Did There (Dos Madres Press, 2011), First Person (Dos Madres Press, 2007) and Divining (WovenWord Press, 2002). Her poetry has been featured recently in journals including Talisman, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, Appalachian Journal, Atlanta Review, Postcards Poems and Prose and Still: The Journal, and anthologized in Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia; Motif: Come What May; and Motif: All the Livelong Day. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is a co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

4 thoughts on “Our Masks/Ourselves: The Men of City Gospel Mission”

  1. Thanks for sharing this.  What wonderful work you and Annette achieve!  Proud to know you both. Karen Jaquish

    From: Pauletta Hansel To: jaquishka@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:42 PM Subject: [New post] Our Masks/Ourselves: The Men of City Gospel Mission #yiv2624263582 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2624263582 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2624263582 a.yiv2624263582primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2624263582 a.yiv2624263582primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2624263582 a.yiv2624263582primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2624263582 a.yiv2624263582primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2624263582 WordPress.com | Pauletta Hansel posted: “Earlier this month, writer and teacher Annette Januzzi Wick offered me the privilege of writing with the men of City Gospel Mission. Formerly located in Annette’s neighborhood of Over the Rhine, it is now located around Crosley Field’s Home Plate, and is ” | |

  2. Hi Pauletta,

    So powerful, love it. We need to listen to these voices. We can learn so much.

    Read this on FB but wanted to respond again. Thanks for sharing.

    Laurel

    ________________________________

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