This Face I wear to show what the world expects to see,
a carefully painted visage rendered in muscles strained
and emotions held in check.
These garments I don to match the Face with its painted smile,
the eyes alight and the cheeks flushed with false vitality,
are camouflage in all its manipulative forms.
The movements my limbs assume when exposed and under scrutiny,
do not match the inner urge to secret myself away in solitude,
distanced from judgment and half-formed assumptions.
The words my lips produce and the cadence of their delivery
are carefully chosen for the deception they cast towards your ears,
who never suspect which troubled thoughts bore them forth.
This, the daily Masquerade in which I find myself amidst,
buffeted about in time to some diabolical tune,
is a Mask of my own making.
My Raku heart’s been molded and shaped
by the words and actions of many.
Tested by fire, colored and tinted by pain.
Cracked, yet resilient always.
My Raku heart, though imperfect
to those outside the fold, is noble to those in the know.
Young, yet wise beyond its years.
Consistently forged and re-strengthened by tears,
like a vessel full of unspoken thoughts and dreams,
my Raku heart beats on to the tune of my soul,
unheard by none but myself.
Entrusted to none and enclosed behind emotional walls
unbreached yet ephemeral as mist,
my Raku heart remains steadfastly intact.
Hold it not in your hands, nor seek to possess what it contains.
Simply admire it from afar like a work in progress,
a creation ever-changing.
Let your eyes take away what it will, and your ears to do the same.
My Raku heart’s complex in its crafted layers,
simplistic in its commonality.
Perhaps you too have a Raku heart.
Perhaps you too see it not as a cross to bear
nor a stigma to hide in shame,
but as a work of art that reflects the truth of you.
The closet’s busted open wide and all the skeletons
have tumbled out clothed in the present’s reality.
Circles and cycles abound,
painted corners dried up and away to release me from this maze that I’ve scurried along and around.
What was the key to my release? What made the stars align?
Was it simply random luck or was it simply time
for rights to wrong and wrongs to right?
I’ve come full circle.
I’ve learned so much along the way.
I’ve carried these lessons across the space of time that stretch from thought to thought and fill the space between youthful ignorance and saged age.
Missed opportunities now take on the guise of second chances
though not what I had initially wanted, seem to be just what I needed.
Unspoken words have made it loud and clear that what cannot be changed must be left behind to forge ahead and not repeat the past’s mistakes.
I’ve come full circle.
Loved and lost so many along the way.
I’ve carried these faces across the space of time stamped across my heart in lines of red.
Though they haunt my thoughts like revenants and ghosts of the living rather than the shades of the long dead,
I fear not what they had once represented and symbolized, but rather
what they have come to mean in this current context.
Circles do not confine me nor define me, but have simply shaped who I’ve become.
No path in life is linear and safeguarded by promise,
each step we take guarantees only a possibility.
I’ve come full circle finally after all this time.
Enlightenment though it may be to some,
to me, simply a better phase of life.
Together we are as Medusa and Narcissus once were,
of Beauty twisted upon itself and Infatuation turned fatal.
As I sit and stare at you from afar
I am frozen, seemingly turned to stone.
Immobilized by my own fear and inward shame,
I long for your returning glance—some form of validation—
knowing all the while that I’m courting certain Disaster.
If I risked a glance and found you staring back at me,
I would wonder:
What are your thoughts in this single yet endless moment?
Are they as crystalized as my own or as ephemeral
as the ether between realities?
Do you long for me to validate your existence with a glance
as well, or do you see me as a hindrance, a concretion
of your own inner turmoil?
Am I a reminder of what was—of regrets not-so-long past—or a symbol for something that cannot possibly be put into words, but only felt with a heart broken, yet mended and beating still?
The silence hangs between us like unspoken accusations,
our cold shoulders and averted gazes
an emotional barrier regardless of proximity.
And yet I feel your pull like an invisible string,
a siren song from a Gorgon’s mouth.
Beckoning me, luring me, urging me to gaze upon
the face of my Beloved, the Narcissus to my Medusa.
And so I do and turn to Stone with a smile upon my lips, thinking all the while that perhaps in the watery stream
of consciousness that is your mind, that
you fearlessly gaze back at me as well;
not as Narcissus who only loved Himself, but as one who can see what truly lies before him, the face of one who loved you as you were and always will be, a Window and a Mirror into your own soul.
Ephemeral I have become like an echo in an empty room,
a mere reverberation and minor ripple in the fabric of time.
Soundless I slip between and amongst the chambers
of my heart and mind to revisit the ghosts of our past,
a shade of my former self.
What is it that I find myself searching for?
Is it a purpose or a meaning? Or is it simply
a vain attempt to find an answer which does not exist?
Day by day my conscience plagues my thoughts
like a revenant hell-bent on vengeance and whose bony fingers continually plant the seeds of doubt and nourish it with torment.
If I’d approached that one singular moment differently or from another angle, another time, another way
other than the one I elected,
would you have reacted differently,
or still brushed past me
as if I were little more than smoke?
With your dismissal I became a Phantom
a shadow of myself.
I exist neither here nor there,
my body earthbound
and my spirit shattered.
How I wish that I would lose the ability to feel,
to be unaware of my heart being crushed by the love it would never bestow upon you.
How I prayed that my mind would slip into blissful unawares,
where the memory of you would not intrude upon my thoughts and relentlessly haunt me.
In these moments I hate you for your cowardice even as I worship faithfully at the altar my heart has erected to you,
a monument to the hero you had become for me,
the one I hoped would save me from my loneliness.
Like a shade I slipped through the succession of days,
seen by all save the one who could bestow substance
and meaning to my existence.
C. L. Warrington is a life-long resident of Uvalde, TX. In addition to earning a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, she has also earned a Teacher’s Certification and has been teaching Language Arts and Social Studies at an elementary campus for the past eleven years. She is a self-published author who enjoys dabbling with poetry, and has even had some of her work published in various online magazines and the upcoming Upon Arrival issue of Poetry Nation’s annual amateur poetry contest, slated for August 2020.