The Mask

by Antony Mair

i.m. Major Brodie ***, MC, DSO, 1882 – 1923

You must have discovered it early. Perhaps you felt
your heart unfold, your breath quicken, when
the men stripped off their shirts at harvest, and guilt
was a sudden aftertaste. You put the mask on,
like we all did, fearing the truth of nakedness.
You learnt to act, to pretend a woman’s kiss
fulfilled your need. When you joined the regiment

the stakes increased: discovery, disgrace
or self-denial. The mask became your skin.
Your eyes betrayed you, though. In the officers’ mess
they hunted Leo like an anxious hound. You’d grown,
and the mask stunted your heart, cut your breath.
Then Leo died. The mask spread across your mouth
and covered your eyes, hiding your grief, your want.