The Mask

When she turned five,

her mother told her

she should be seen

but not heard,

and gently covered her face

with a paper thin mask.

It grew on her like a second skin,

white and delicate,

until she hardly felt it anymore.

Now, day after day

she paints a face

on top of her face-

a polite mask

to hide the flaws

of bad skin

and thin lips,

but also other

broken things-

a cracked heart

polished into

a radiant smile-

those frightened eyes

disguised by blackbird wings.


no matter how hard she tries

to keep her thoughts sewn up

tight inside her head,

a thread comes loose

and she unravels.

Then people whisper her name-

cluck cluck their concern.

Her latest boyfriend says

he can’t handle her neediness,

even though she only tells him

the good dreams, like the one

where pink roses and baby’s breath

grow out of her skull until

it splits open,

and behind her eyes

another pair of eyes

blinks and winks-

signaling someone else

still lives in there.

She wants to say,

behind these swollen red lips

I have child lips-

small and soft,

afraid to speak-

behind this murmur

of a voice,

I scream!

All day long

inside her head

she hears a mocking bird sing.

It mimics the sound

of a porcelain mask





By Johanna Ely 2017

For The Shattering Exhibition