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man and woman with masks

[by F. J. Bergmann]


After The Unwitting Rival, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2008


He has polished his sharpest horns
especially for the occasion. She is all
nipples and snowflower lace. He swells
with pride or some such deadliness.

You remember when you did not yet know
that everyone wears a mask; that most
masks hide another mask, and another;
that some masks are completely invisible.

Trees bare their branches, and a dream-lit moon
hovers like the mother of a defiant adolescent,
brimming with useless advice and unshed tears.
Faraway fires tint thick air with ochre smoke.

When will you flense the last mask from the flesh
of your face? Why don’t you remove your red gown?


F. J. Bergmann edits poetry for Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association ( and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (, and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets.

One thought on “Scrutiny

  1. Just to be clear, the accompanying image is not Kelli Hoppmann’s painting, nor is it mine.

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