Sloboda Photo
By Noel Sloboda

It would be the same
without this mask:
nobody would be glad

to see me naked, slicing open
bulging bags of garbage,
shoving my snout into rotten tree trunks

after sweet vermin within.
It would be the same—
my icy eyes piercing

the gloaming, only to be
melted away by the fires
of dawn. Every time

I look ahead, I see myself
splashed across some roadside
or starved while I remain

caught in a steel trap,
always dying too young
to go completely grey.

So I leave my face
swathed in darkness
that is not sleep.

(Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Noel Sloboda’s work has recently appeared in Redactions, Salamander, and Modern Language Studies. He is the author of the poetry collections Shell Games (2008) and Our Rarer Monsters (2013) as well as several chapbooks. Sloboda has also published a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. He teaches at Penn State York.

Editor’s Note: “It would be the same / without this mask.” What a brilliant entry into today’s piece, following the setup of the poem’s title. How much we have to think about as soon as we enter, even before the vivid picture the poet paints, even before his masterful coupling of image and alliteration. How deeply we are set within the scene, and how thin the veil between animal and man.

Want to read more by and about Noel Sloboda?
Noel Sloboda’s official website
Buy Our Rarer Monsters from sunnyoutside press
Buy Circle Straight Back from Červená Barva Press

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