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The Mask

by Mike Sherry
inspired by Emily Kent’s demo-lesson

I know what it is to wear a mask
Or masks, for there is more 
than one

My father’s explosive anger
My mother’s entrapping innocence
But mostly the ingratiating snake:

Love me or I lash out
Let me help you and hate you
For needing me

Like my ancestors, slave-catchers
Luring tired swimmers to
A false light.

But I have traced the wounds
Beneath those masks
To their core:

To a night when my mother’s paranoia
Had us crawling on the carpet
Avoiding windows

To that moment when I knew
If I would not be loved
I must be needed

And to the words my father gave me
In feedback on my writing
“Not much use”

But I have learned 
That core wound can 
Become sacred wound:

To transform
Rather than transmit 
The pain

We all need others, we all need grace
To be loved without having to be
Useful

So I will choose to be 
A lighthouse, standing
On my own dark rocks 

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