The Mask

So detached and cool she is
No motion e’er betrays 
The secret life within her soul, 
The anguish of her days. 

She seems to look upon the world 
With cold ironic eyes, 
To spurn emotions’s fevered sway, 
To scoff at tears and sighs. 

But once a woman with a child
Passed by her on the street, 
And once she heard from casual lips
A man’s name, bitter-sweet. 

Such baffled yearning in her eyes,
Such pain upon her face! 
I turned aside until the mask 
Was slipped once more in place. 

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.