This is my post for Sunday Scribblings, May 20th, 2007.

Author’s note: This piece is titled “Unmask”. The title is a plea, from one lover to another, that they lift the protective masks that hide their insecurity, the vulnerability that we all feel at times when we are in love — knowing we could be hurt, that we have hurt and caused hurt in the past.

These masks are not unusual. The longer a relationship lasts, the more likely that these masks appear — especially if there has been some heartbreak along the way. We have masks of familiarity, and of complacency, which can also hide the love we feel. So this lover is saying, “unmask, open up, show me, talk with me — let’s show and speak our love, before that love gets lost in a veil of silent indifference”.

In “Unmask” I use the gradually increasing wind outside as a parallel to the subtly increasing turbulence in the lover’s soul. The wind chime signifies the “ring” of love and hope that resonates still in the lover’s heart. The darkening light outside also is juxtaposed with the growing light of awareness the lover is experiencing.


Outside, the evening breeze freshens.
The wind chime, which hangs in the eave,
rings from time to time – soothingly.

Inside, we sit with dinner,
and complacency.
There is little resonance.

We care for one another.
Our love goes without saying.

Meal finished, we clear the table together,
and converse very little.

No need, we know each other,
we know without saying.

Task done,
we part quietly,
me to my keyboard,
you to read.

Outside, sunset paints the deck in soft shade,
tubular bells lilt in twilight.

Inside, a shadow of indifference seems to lurk,
as I type in silence.

I think about the times we’ve hurt each other,
caused each other thoughtless pain.

But that carelessness has been forgiven.
We are bound, one to the other,
a bond that goes without saying.

Outside, a brisk wind greets day’s end,
chimes pleasantly keep pace.

Inside, turbulent uncertainty stirs within,
the more I type.

I wonder.
Are we really happy?
Surely we are happy,
that goes without saying.

Certainly that must go without saying –
does it not?
But why is it we do not say?

We wear these masks of coy silence,
to hide the vulnerable face of love.
How dangerously foolish we’ve become.

It’s then my heart wants to cry out,
to reach across the soundlessness,
to rouse you from your pulp and plot.

Talk with me, it shouts,
I lift my mask — see me now.
See me new.
Talk with me,
I can still surprise!

Let us speak what is not spoken,
unmask what lies within our hearts,
unmask and talk —
before our love is gone,
without ever saying.

Outside, a chime sounds in the darkness.

Inside, a dawn breaks once again.

Rob Kistner © 2007

50 thoughts on “Unmask”

  1. Hi Rob. This is so moving, you’ve captured so well in metaphor and symbols the masks. The sound of the chimes to me is mournful, ringing not in celebration, but despair. The silence between partners, the fact that they have given up is so sad.

    Take a chance, unmask, who knows the joy that lingers there, stifled under layers of masks.



  2. Rose

    Thank you for your very kind words! I am pleased you invested yourself in your read and in your comments. 🙂

    With the very last line of the poem, I have tried to leave an opening for possibility — that the chime ringing in the darkness might be heralding a new beginning. Maybe?

  3. This is a fantastic poem, with which many many couples no doubt can identify. Just brilliant – a reminder that communication is a constantly-renewable key to every relationship.

  4. Tara

    Thank you very much for the compliment!

    This piece comes from my heart. I have lost love in the past because I did not tend it. A mistake so easily, and sadly made — in the familiarity that grows with the passing of time, and the counted scars. A good relationship needs to be long on the “I love you’s” and short on keeping score.

  5. its so sad that you have lost love and have your regrets, but being able to write a love poem as beautiful as this one… means You will Find love again and it will be forever. 🙂 thanks for the lovely read

  6. Lucy

    Thank you for the wonderful compliment, and your words of caring!

    I have in fact been with the “new” love of my life, Kathy, for 20 years, this past May 6th. But having lived for 60 years, Kath was not my “first”. It was my experience of lost love in my early years to which I referred in my response to Tara (Paris Parfait).

  7. This resonates for me as one who has been married for a long time now… 21 years this June! We are so familiar with each other that we forget to keep on exploring! There is still so much we don’t know about each other and that’s where the masks come in…
    A brilliant poem for today’s prompt, Rob… thanks…

  8. Regina

    Thank you for appreciating this piece!

    You know what they say, “familiarity breeds contempt”, or at the very least — apathy, which has as many dangers lurking under the surface.

    Any of us who have been married for a long time know the struggle not to be indifferent, or petty, or biting at times — or worse, resentful. After a long enough time, we know each other’s weaknesses and we have felt the sting of each other’s carelessness — that is when it is really important to find a way to discover the parts of our lover’s soul and mind that we don’t see, or aren’t shown.

    That’s the tricky but necessary journey we all need to learn how to make. Me too. I mess up all the time — but I’m trying. I felt, and certainly hoped, this poem of mine might shine a little light for others.

  9. wow. great poetry.

    i can almost feel as if i was there to witness the entire thing. (sorry for intruding! lol)

    the imagery it evokes is crisp and life-like.

    nicely done! 🙂

  10. Our love goes without saying.

    i’m so glad you dropped by my scribbles so i could find yours !!!
    this is just so powerful

    Our love goes without saying – but does it ?

  11. Uberjam

    Thanks man — I appreciate the compliments!

    My written life is an open book — no intrusion.

    Thanks for visiting.

  12. Kathryn

    I enjoyed your site. Thank you for visiting mine, and for you kind words.

    Please stop back.

  13. I likehow the inner feelings has been compared with nature outside. We do hide behind the vulnerability brought about love. Maybe if we opened up…

    ….an open ended question.

  14. wow!

    I hadn’t looked at how our masks can return in a relationship, even one that is longstanding……. your poem has taught me to look at things a little differently.

    Beautiful imagery……I can hear the chimes….. 🙂

    it is all about protecting our vulnerabilities isn’t it?

  15. Awareness

    Yes, even the strongest among us is fragile in the hands of love.

    It all comes down to protecting our vulnerabilities — our heart and soul.

    Thank you for the gracious words.

  16. Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog.
    A very well-written piece – I loved the closing – I could hear that chime.
    And your site is just beautiful.
    Youve got some gift for design.
    Take care and have a simply splendid Sunday!

  17. Frances

    You are most welcome. I enjoyed myself.

    Thank your for your kind words!

    Glad you like my design work. It allows me to exercise my left brain and right brain, as well as explore fashion. It’s a blast!

    Please visit again.

  18. So touching. I’ve never thought of how barriers go up as we grow into a marriage. It makes me think of Fiddler on the Roof- the song where Tevye and his wife sing “Do you love me?”. I know that sounds stupid, but I’ve always felt that it was the most underrated bit of wisdom every uttered on a stage. 🙂 And the song is a lifting of the mask, as surprise. . .

    So, it’s a compliment.

  19. Very touching. Sadly, it doesn’t go without saying, does it? Or at least I’ve found that to be the case. How brave of you to want to unmask yourself for your love.

  20. This is beautiful. Perhaps in the last lines, using the plural “chimes” would make it sound more hopeful? Where I live, a single, successive chime means someone has died, but “chimes” would mean to me something like a wedding, i.e., a new beginning. Anyway, I love what you’ve written.

  21. I like the ambiguity of the sound of the chimes and the hope of a new dawn at the end. Its sad that so many couples are in that situation, but then its perhaps often easier to take each other for granted in a busy world?

  22. Rob,
    A niceley crafted tribute to lessons learned through time. Not all are as willing to lower the mask for fear of rejection. But as you’ve recognized love will never be complete ’til the maks come down.

  23. Ren

    Glad you liked!

    Like layers of dust and grime, with time, our masks go on in thin layers, until we end up with a hardened shell — unless we are willing to peel them away from time to time.

  24. Patois

    Thank you!

    Love that goes without saying, for too long, is in jeopardy of one day — just going.

  25. Sognatrice

    Thank you for your kind words.

    When I wrote chime, I was referring to the wind-chime, which is several tubular bells collected with a striker.

    However, that is a very interesting cultural element that you pointed out. That line would work just as well written:
    “Outside, chimes sound in the darkness.”

    I did like the melancholy nature of the singular “chime”, ringing out with hope. I didn’t want it to signify disaster, much less death.

    Thank you for pointing that out. Perhaps I’ll have two versions — one with the singular “chime”, and one with the plural “chimes”.

  26. Juliet

    Thank you for appreciation!

    The world today moves so fast, and in such a sound-byte framework that it is very easy for people to become anonymous and invisible — even, to some degree, those closest to us.

    Tending relationships is imperative if you want it to grow and flourish — in my humble opinion.

  27. Jennifer

    Love unfostered, can fade and even die. It requires our genuine attention, or it can cool and become brittle.

  28. Rel

    I appreciate your compliment.

    It is the fear and insecurity resulting from our vulnerability that raises the masks — and the resentment that grows from uncaring moments that keeps the masks in place.

    Love isn’t easy, but love consciously nurtured, is awesome.

  29. Hello. This week is my first at Sunday Scribblings and I love the stories and poems I have read so far. My favorite stanza from your poem is
    “Let us speak what is not spoken,
    unmask what lies within our hearts,
    unmask and talk –
    before our love is gone,
    without ever saying.”

    I found it very interesting what you wrote at the beginning of your post that “The longer a relationship lasts, the more likely that these masks appear’. At first I thought the opposite – I mean how many masks do we wear when we first meet someone; when we try to match our thoughts on what we think they want us to be. But as I read more I agree that masks can come out at anytime and be just as readily used later in longer relationships.

    I wonder then do we use our “masks” to promote ourselves or protect ourselves. Great Blog.

  30. Michelle

    Thank you! Welcome to the Sunday Scribbling ring.

    We are prone to mask ourselves at the very beginning of our relationships to promote ourselves. We want to impress, so we put on a mating show — and we all “know” inherently we are doing it. These masks are not as surprising or dangerous, unless someone is simply unhealthy socially.

    We also begin to mask ourselves much later in relationships, as we become familiar with each other, and there have been a few uncaring episodes — which happen in all relationships.

    The better we know each other, the easier it is to “push each others buttons”, to poke at our vulnerabilities — because when you’ve been long enough with someone you know their weaknesses.

    This is the time when the masks appear again to protect ourselves from being hurt, from feeling vulnerable.

    Two people entwined in the world’s healthiest relationship may not have this happen — but who the hell are these people. I’ve never met them, and in 60 years, I’ve met and known a LOT of people.

    These masks that come up later in relationships are the most dangerous. They can frequently be harder shelled, and much more difficult to shed.

    If two people hide their true selves long enough from their mate, one of two things happens — they divorce, or the relationship ends up being a cold, bitter tragedy. Sadly, there are many many of them in this world — you have probably seen one somewhere Michelle.

    “Unmask” is a warning to be aware of these subtle “later” masks, and to dare to lower them if they are there — for the sake of your love.

  31. Why is it that WOW is always the first thing that comes to mind when I read your posts. Maybe I need to get out a thesarus for next time. This is such a great description of falling into a routine and taking a partner for grantid after being together for a long time. The ending was so moving. I did not read any of the comments but the last one you wrote because it is directly above what I am writing. My parents ending up being “a cold, bitter tragedy” before my father died. And then things only got worse. I hope to have learned from their mistakes but my married life has only just begun. Thanks for such an inspirational post. Your genius is so obvious from your writing.

  32. I cannot even begin to express how true and beautiful your words are. I enjoyed your post very much. My husband and I have been married for five and a half years now and we make a point to talk every day and find out about each other’s day and how we’re feeling. Verbally I’m handicapped and so my usual responses are short. My husband often tries to draw me into a conversation and it is this introverted mask I need to remove. Thank you for your kind words on my entry.

  33. Chris

    Thank you, and I am humbled by your compliments.

    Rather than genius, what I have is a great deal of experience — and I learned to keep my eyes open and my mind engaged during much of it.

    I had a rough life from the very beginning. Concealed from the world, I learned very early how to put on a brave face — masks if you will. There was too much shame and confusion not to do so.

    It took me a long time to adjust in life, including a bad first marriage, from which came an amazing daughter (yin & yang).

    I kept stumbling, kept falling, but kept going — observing and learning. Eventually some things started to sort out for me. I have still much to learn, but I have discovered some useful balance.

    So what I share here are my life lessons — the portion of balance I have acquired. I’ve also listened closely to, and absorbed some of the life lessons of my friends — so what I write here is an elemental composite of experience.

    If it is of encouragement to others, then my life, to date, has meaning and is worthwhile — for that I am thankful.

  34. Anita

    Thank you!

    Nothing should be left in a relationship to “go without saying”. Just as the small emotional bruises we inflict from time to time, and the moments of withholding our feelings can, over time, build to an irreversible rift in a relationship — so to, small acknowledgments of love and caring, shared with our love ones, can build to a powerful bond.

    So, tending a relationship does not have to be continual, huge, lavish displays of affection (though occasionally they are important) — fact is, small gestures, if authentic, are like magic.

    A gentle embrace, a softly spoken “I love you” while looking into your lovers eyes, doing the dishes without being asked, picking up after yourself in the bathroom, a soothing shoulder rub when you see the weariness on your lovers face, or… — these are the waters that nourish and grow the garden of the heart.

  35. Cheryl

    Thank you for your gracious words!

    In most relationships each mate is stronger or more fluent than the other in many different aspects — and of similar competence at others. It’s what gives purpose, value, and interest to the relationship.

    So, it is not so important how well you express yourself — as long as you are willing to share yourself, and do so honestly. Be who you really are because that is who you want your lover to know and value.

    If you paint a false picture, you end up with a meaningless relationship — with essentially yourself to blame.

  36. Nicely done sir! I am jealous of how easily you string the simplest of words together which evoke such emotion that a reply must be made.

  37. Tag

    Thank you very much!

    I find that simple words do not confuse. They allow one to clearly present the intent of the writing — for better impact.

    I don’t always adhere to the essence of this belief when I write — but I try.

    WOW! I just read your list of interests. What a full life you have! 🙂

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