There is a noise within my ears
a sea of voices roar

I cannot silence them at all
they only clamor more

Within the maddened, motley mob
whose cries assail my mind

familiar faces rise and fall
and this is what I find:

I see a child with troubled eyes
a girl with haunted air

there is a babe in shabby clothes
a waif with ragged hair

a winsome lass, a wanton wench
a maiden fresh and young

a rebel furious and cruel
who speaks with serpent tongue

a crone much older than the moon
a woman large with child

barbarian with painted skin
a savage weird and wild

Why do I fear the way they look?
What do I think they see?

Why should I quake to meet their gaze?
For They are only Me.

These versions of myself I keep
interred in bars of bone

The wounded, wrecked and weeping ones
abandoned there, disowned

With cups of tin together they
assail the iron gates

Their voices rise and fall as one
for freedom they await

I hold the hasp and padlock both
within my trembling hand

but lack the courage to unleash
this ugly, unwashed band

As one they stir within my soul
As close as breath they dwell

With every gasp I pull them in
and die with each exhale

Beset by inmates grim and gaunt
who can be poor as I?

I wish to give them up at once
release them to the sky

My fingers grip the rusty lock
I move to turn the key

when sudden thoughts invade my mind:
what will become of me?

What if they are my all in all?
What if there’s nothing left?

They’ll take what little I now have
and leave me here bereft

Although they test and terrify
my timid, tired soul

they promise me that they will make
my holy mess more whole

And so I step away again
as they begin to wail

I leave them gnashing broken teeth
behind me in that jail

With every step I feel their pain
because it is my own

Though trapped and tortured I may be
at least I’m not alone.