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The Masquers

ISSUE:  Summer 1984

I am lying, you say hesitantly, tasting
the thin syllables, gauging their feathery weight
in the air: chill fine whining notes.


Am I lying? you ask.

Certain words in combination are invariably untrue.
Others, solitary, cannot be true.
Yes, you are instructed. No. Perhaps not.

The masquer whose brittle mouth shapes lies,
even in silence. Will you help me? Can you help me?
I am suffocating in here!

“Here and there,” Hawthorne speculates, “a natural face
may appear.”

Your words fly from you. Innocent lies spoken
for the pure pleasure of speaking: chill fine whining
notes meaning no harm. But they take hold.

They take hold. Snagged in skin. In brain. One
syllable, after all, is very much like another.
Only in combination are they untrue.

Vowels yield readily to vowels.

The masquer’s gauzy mouth contorts.

If I tell lies, you claim, it is by accident:
I am innocent.

By now even the dictionaries have been contaminated.
The mosquito’s blood, smeared brightly on your skin,
is your own.—A masquer’s observation.


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