oldman.jpg

Not a Persona Poem

Let me drop the masks and personae,
the aliases, pseudonyms, heteronyms,
the assumed voices and misdirections.
Who is Carl when he's at home?
I never go into that room.

Trout have significance,
rats have character, bees
keep the world running, birds
might be complicated machines
but it's clear when they're doing
what they were made to do
and when they aren't,
and when they aren't,
something is wrong.
Something is wrong.

I don't know what's in that room. I'm afraid
I don't know what I'm afraid to know.

Maybe a demon, a hungry swamp, a muddy
madness, a mephitic psychic plague,
some monster of eldest night
or of the deeper
human dark, kept there
to protect the world,
to protect those I love,
to protect their love for me.

Scarier, and more probable,
a pale skinny boy, not athletic
or cute or quick, a kid
frightened to open that door and emerge.
He spends his time
with glue and construction paper,
making mask after
mask after mask.
All of them look like he would
if he didn't look like this.

Or scariest, most likely of all,
something no more interesting
than a styrofoam cup
the wind blows down the street,
dull as a pebble in a parking lot,
not sparkling or sinister, a person
like people, nothing particular
to be, nothing to say,
me.

-- Carl Bettis
2019-04-30


Image info: Máscara para el carácter Tiestes, unknown Roman artist. Found on Wikimedia Commons.