Thoughtful Poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar


We Wear the Mask

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 subtleties.

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 dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!


Paul Laurence Dunbar is half of the namesake of the Wright Dunbar neighborhood. As more than half of the neighborhood is part of the African American community, it’s important to recognize Dunbar and his contribution to literature. I chose the poem We Wear the Mask to dive deeper into, as a basis to use his words as inspiration for the space. I first chose the mask poem, simply because of the irony of the pandemic situation, but juxtaposed against the true meaning of the writing, I think it is very powerful. I believe that the poem is talking about showing our strengths, even if it is from behind a mask; this concept might translate to the workplace, as professionals are often just trying to do their best to get by. The designed space needs to be one where post-pandemic professionals can not only take their physical mask off, but also let their guard down and feel comfortable to co-work with others.