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This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Living an un-divided life

Since writing the poem "Persona Grata" about the strategic use of masks and another--just a few hours ago--I found Parker Palmer's post about "The Undivided Life" on his facebook page.  He posted this video:  



I felt for a moment as if we were in dialogue.  Here is my poem:

What skill to hide under
such cover as face masks
provide and not let them
know our identities

Camouflage to hide and
to stalk successfully
the over-confident,
unwary, gullible

Cover up to hide tears,
grow strong and build allies
for a united front
when time is ripe to act

Cover up to expose
character, to play more
than one part, one gender,
one race, ethnicity
and class, to meet someone

To walk in another’s
shoes,  path, obstacles
To satisfy curi-
osity, to expand

What skill to wear the mask
for survival, what skill
to take it off for love
pain both ways, always pain

And gain—empathy and
control, freedom and its
opposite—strategic
choices to be alive

"Persona Grata," Copyright © 2013  S.L.Chast




And here is a bit of Parker Palmer's intro from his Facebook wall:

"Don't wear your heart on your sleeve." "Play your cards close to your vest." "Don't make yourself vulnerable." Sadly, most of us learn early on that it's not safe to be in the world as who we truly are, with what we really value and believe.But when we live "masked," even "armored" lives, the world pays a price.


Parker Palmer reminds us that this price we pay is "at the heart" of his book Healing the Heart of Democracy. This book is support for anyone trying to change their modus operandi in the world.

In the following poem, Paul Laurence Dunbar exposes his undivided self in this confirmation of living a divided life:


We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!


Dunbar's context was the Harlem Renaissance, but his message transcends time. Palmer's context is now.  The closest I have come to undivided is in my back-stage life: rehearsal, classroom, home, journals and my relationship with God.  Now I try to bring that space into my writing.

Where, when, are we safe? or at least safe enough?


2 comments:

  1. Excellent! Insanely interesting (which equals kind of confusing)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What part of this is confusing? or what confusion does this raise?

      Delete

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