We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world think other-wise,
We wear the mask!
This poem is also available as a PDF.
Poet Maya Angelou adapted Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" in a spoken-word poem.