Thursday, February 26, 2015


image from


“The liberal state is a Mask, behind which there is no face;
it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building.”
--Benito Mussolini.

The face you wear at work          varies a bit
                      from lunch to board room,
                      from the handball court
                              (where you let your supervisor win)
               to the smarmy pithy views you share with Tess
                               (whose husband you went to college with)
                      around the water cooler.

The face you wear at the Credit Union
          as you ask for a personaL loan                 is quite different from
  the one you slip on for the plumber, or
                                      the waitress at Dixie’s, or
                                      the cop who pulled you over for failure
          to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. or
                                       the crippled busker who blows mad mellow
trumpet near the farmer’s market, holding it low, head down,
eyes closed like Chet Baker, or
                                      the drunken Indian, reeking of Budweiser,
           on the beach below the reservation at Toholah, who appeared
                          out of the twilight half-shadows, asking for
                                  more beer or three dollars, who tells you
                          his name is Bear as he melts back into the darkness
            as you shovel angry sand onto the bright embers
of your dying fire.

There are several faces you have perfected even for
your wife, though certainly sometimes
she sees the real one,
                     raw, naked, vulnerable, intense & sensitive,
                     dripping with pain or joy, 
       and more than likely she recognizes You,        flickering past
partially mantled as one of a dozen guises, making
the shuffling sound as a part of a flip-animation notebook,
                     knows the difference, and
has conditioned her responses to each one.

Damn, just consider the face you present to
                                               your siblings,
                                               your parents,
                                               your children & grandchildren, or
                                                   your good friends--
                      each in turn completely relevant
           to who they think you are, or
               who you pretend to be, or
for a moment actually are;

                       for each of us are like the Chinese Mask performers
snapping new faces on instantly
as we turn our head,
or shift our gaze.             Decade standing upon decade,
                       we are all actors superbly playing many parts
like Alec Guiness or Peter Sellers, like Commedia participants
             allowed to wear any of the masks at will.

But while alone
shaving the face in the mirror, or
snipping nose hairs, or
brushing back gray locks
from our actual Face,                            moments elongate,
                         You hear the brakes screeching,
                                        the tires sliding, your vehicle 
out of your control,
as the rainbow scales fall away,
the bark peels back         & You are bathed in a stark realization
                          that one day soon, perhaps
                    even at that very moment, or another,
          without warning, blitzkrieg but brimming with
provocation, punishment & panache,
one day the paint becomes
too heavy for the wall
when you cover it up
so often--
                              & even though your hidden closets
                              & secret drawers are still overflowing
               with colorful lovingly-crafted masks, you find
          that some of them have crystalized    or disintegrated
                                                          or turned to bronze
                                                  or tin or putty or salt, &
You are left with fewer choices each morning.

Your actual Self              smiles defiantly, understanding
that it would soon usurp the folded hordes of imposters
you have habitually carried in your hidden pockets,
one for every occasion;    for in the end, skidding toward the veil,
there can be only one. 

 Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on d√erse Poets MTB
Today jousting as part of Team Brian

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Mary said...

So true - we have many faces we wear. Or perhaps better to think that our face has many facets...some are seen by some people & some are seen by others. Hopefully there is someone close to us who sees all different facets, even the uncommon ones, and accepts all of them. I enjoyed the ending too...we are all skidding toward the veil. Yes, and one face must face the end. Welcome back, Glenn.

Brian Miller said...

thank goodness that some of them crystallize and deterirate over time...just imagine having to shave all of those masks...we do tend to wear them based on the situation...location...who we are with...which is the real the real one still under there somewhere? smiles.

glad you made it back for this go away for a few weeks and come back to our leaving..ha...teach you to go away will still be around though...and i will still be watching for you...

hope you had a great trip man...

Claudia said...

we tend to wear to many masks and probably sometimes forget ourselves who we are really... it's so refreshing when we manage to get rid of them and can be who we are...
and hey... welcome back... hope you had a great time away

brudberg said...

Oh I love the many faces that we wear .. and how we are seen through by just a few.. and then the end where we have but one.. very skillfully done Glenn.. Love the end particularly.

Great to have you back.. and the pub will remain opened.. maybe changing a bit ...

Anonymous said...

Oh those closets overflowing with our masks - just had a conversation about this - how to present the authentic self - even if that is really possible.

Marina Sofia said...

Brilliant - just love this one. Being away for a while obviously has had a good effect on you! Well rested and raring to go! Hints of Shakespeare to it, and that ending is sooo good, makes me want to stop, think, read again and again.

Gabriella said...

We do indeed wear numerous masks and faces. Hopefully they are often close to the one that is hidden but genuine.

Unknown said...

is there ever a situation where wearing a mask is a good thing? I can't think of one, but maybe... Some wear so many masks they get lost and have no idea they really are. they act a certain way around one group of people, then another way around such and such...

Glad to have our fellow d'verse dog in the pack again :)

Anonymous said...

I guess you have to be a strong, confidant, person who doesn't care whether everyone likes and approves. Not too many people are that secure and when they are, I think, they call them eccentric.

Wolfsrosebud said...

... now i'll need to go over to the mirror and check out which face i'm wearing... interesting topic... welcome back

Kathy Reed said...

That particular line from Brian's poem is loaded..and so is your response today. So much has to do with how we want to be loved, I think. Not necessarily a conscious act, changing our demeanor depending on the occasion, the people or person, or situation is human nature, but you are right, that we must be aware of the potential trouble we can get ourselves into, with or without intention..and oh, the ending
"skidding toward the veil" is brilliant!

Grace said...

I like how you describe our different faces in different occasions and yes, we seem to know when to put one mask over another depending on circumstances ~ In the end though, its just our real face we have to contend with ~

I hope you are caught up with whats happening in D'verse Glenn ~ you can read up the Pubtalk since last week ~

Beachanny said...

Interesting to me, we have all picked up these threads of time, and masquerade. Nearly all the poems I've read so far have woven these themes through them just as you and I have.

It is so natural for you as an actor to consider your repertoire, your collection of characters, that dissembling of your personality into the most effective part of you to deal with the situation, and the ability to keep private and close the most personal and revealing bits of who you are. I think this is essentially what I mean in my poem when I use the term "masquerade". This was very effective and well said!

Anonymous said...

Very well done! I think our faces are necessary, are how we manage to coexist with such variety in the social structure of our lives. We are chameleons, changing our appearance to hide from what might hurt us. As we age those faces deteriorate, as our position in the social structure changes. More is tolerated from us then, and some of our faces can be dropped. Excellent!

Ginny Brannan said...

How excellently you have captured the masks the we wear. Was enrapt in this from start to finish. Excellent write, Glenn.

Gail said...

So many faces. I think we can keep changing them hopefully for the better.

Truedessa said...


Welcome back your poem rings true on many levels. So many masks to protect that inner shell. Masks of joy, laughter, pain and sorrow depending on the mood. The many sides of the human self.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wow, what a tour de force!

Sabio Lantz said...

I too have always been fascinated by our many faces. But I have never looked at them as "masks" or "impostors"[with an "o", I think] over a "a real one", an "actual Self" or an "authentic self" (Björn) or "genuine"(Gavriella) or "real face"(Grace) or "that inner shell"(Truedessa).

I feel each is real, even the one we'd like to hope is the real one. So maybe I agree with Gail and dkirkstokes.

I am not an idealist, I am alright with messy complexity and do not desire neat answers: no one soul, no essential me, no me vs all of them. Tis messy. But maybe you partially agree too. All are agreements are partial, of course — how could they be otherwise. :-)

I really enjoyed this, because it still playfully captures our multi-facet drama of our lives.

I had to look up a few words in your poem — great words, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I love this so much, stripping layer upon layer, revealing the core.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I almost chose that line, but I am positive that you have given it more justice than I ever could. Hopefully we can gradually let go of the masks we wear, as we evolve and as we worry less of other people's perceptions of us. Difficult but possible.

Mystic_Mom said...

You. Rock. Love it.