Skin as Masquerade
by Lourdes A. Gautier

Skin, like a steel cage
traps the soul
stretches taut to enclose
that which we want to hide.

No Lone Ranger party mask
that hides the upper half of our face
or Mardi Gras sequined disguise
that makes others wonder what lies beneath.

Anything to hide who we are
though the flagrant mask that engulfs
our bodies in black, brown, yellow or white
cannot blur our identity.

Transpicuous designer objects like
red-soled shoes, familiar initials that are
not our own plastered on items that adorn
our body as camouflage
offer a postiche of class membership.

Skin like a steel cage
entraps the soul and stretched taut
can’t hide what we are.

IMAGE: A ceramic mask created by the author’s son, Nicholas Malakhow, when he was in first or second grade.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem uses the multiple meanings of mask beyond a tangible caricature that we can hide behind, mask as cover, front, veneer, pretense, etc. The last lines of the poem were written as a Haiku. The middle explores how we use things to create a persona. In the end the one thing that society chooses to use to identify us is the color of our bodies, potentially the largest mask of all that affords privilege or lack thereof.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lourdes A. Gautier was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and raised in New York City. She has taught courses in acting and theatre history and criticism at CUNY, Drew University, and Jersey City State University, and language arts in a special grant funded program at Rutgers University.  Her writing has been published in Acentos Review, Cagibi Literary Review, Calliope Magazine, Dying Dahlia Review, and Silver Birch Press. Her writing focuses on the issues of identity as an Afro-Latina, the many faces of love (romantic and familial), and saudade or anhelo, a longing for a place to call home.