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.
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 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.
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