Rob Green

Rob Green "I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then."

Robert Green wrote the poem ‘He Says … I Say’ in 2011 when he was in his late 20s.

At the time he was working through the High Performance Learning Basic Language and Learning Skills Course to overcome his dyslexia and improve his reading. He was also in the middle of the Advanced Study Skills Program to help him with his university studies in Psychology.

‘He Says … I Say’ was the first poem Robert ever wrote! He got inspired to write it by the following line from a Bob Seger song called ‘Against the Wind’:
‘I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.’

As you will see, that line prompted Robert to think very deeply about his Mind Set and changing his whole approach to life now he had such vastly improved language and comprehension skills. This is, something that frequently happens during the courses we run at High Performance Learning.

‘He Says … I Say’ is a very deep poem – so do it justice by reading it a number of times – you won’t be disappointed.

He Says … I Say

by Robert Green

The sticky smelly glue
Steadfastly remains despite innumerable scrubs

The mask is pulled toward him by the force of magnetism
Suck, suck, sucking back onto his sticky face

I wrench it off my face yet again
Once more I put the damp cloth to my cheeks

Still the tacky feel
The smell as potent and putrid as ever

Seemingly as washing ceases
Magnetism begins

I wonder whether to allow the mask its place unchallenged
A much less arduous way forward, surely … he thinks

The clowder of cats flourish with each masky moment
They preach to him in unison about the person he has become
A person they have complete control over

They have convinced him to lie
A skill he has become so adept at he is unaware

Washing continuously will waste water
It will take time, time he doesn’t have
Not only that, his skin will become dry

Without the mask I feel invigorated
With the mask he is trapped

Without the mask I am challenged
With the mask he feels familiar

To keep ripping the mask away requires my utmost attention
To allow the mask to stay he feels safer

Life without the mask is riddled with fear
So is life with it

Fulfilment, excitement, risk and satisfaction
Or, boredom, feline dominance littered with escapist pleasure seeking
And a depressing, lonely regret filled death

As he drifts away
He knows now what it feels like without it

The crossroad approaches
He timidly seeks the approval of clowder
Knowing both sides must be better than not?

Do I really want to know what I know?
Dreams may give temporary relief

As the sun rises he must choose
To fight or be a sheep

Robert Green
2nd November 2011

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8 thoughts on “He Says … I Say by Robert Green

  1. Your poem really gave me a lot to think about Robert, especially about the different voices we have in our heads.

    It stimulated me to write this poem:

    ** I Say, He Says **

    I face my fear, I fear my face
    Happiness, Pleasure
    Intimacy, Sex
    Choose, Escape
    Construct, Complain
    Inspire, Compete
    Win-Win, Win-Lose
    I do, I talk
    I am, I might
    I know, I wish I didn’t know
    And, But
    Act, Hope
    Be, Act
    Now, Wait

  2. I really liked the way Robert expressed his confusion about this “new self”. It reassured me that we all live in a certain amount of fear. Fear of changing, fear of not changing, how easy it is to get lost, depressed.
    In some ways I think this poem is also about a coming of age , in a way and how that keeps happening to us throughout life, how do we respond?

  3. Thanks Robert for making a platform for commentary and sharing of our own. I am behind the mask of internet right now, so I can be maskless. (Less inhibited in commentary perhaps than in a personal encounter?)
    To fight or be a sheep. It goes without saying that a fight will be fought over here on the morrow. Feeling battle scarred and tired out, the mask of sleep will be needed for a time, to fight another day. Carrying these most recent wounds causes the mask to crack, and even dissolve at the most inopportune times.
    Mask. You aren’t fortified against my red blushing rage and hurt nor are you immune to tears. I say, mask. You are a fair weather friend. But not without virtue, or respite or comfort, sometimes.

    • Thanks Chris, Alex and Annette for your comments, I am glad the poem provoked some deep thought.

      Alex, as far as a new self goes I am constantly struggling with it and all the rest of them. I am pretty sure I will be taking the battle to my grave, I am choosing to win it from now on though. (There you go Chris, I am competing with myself).

      Annette, the computer issue is a very interesting one. I think my mask is different over the computer which is also different from over the phone. I can’t say my mask has virtue and it definitely does not have a comforting influence on me because I know what the more viable alternative is. Once upon a time alcohol made the mask more comfortable and sticky, without alcohol the mask is panicking. At the moment I have brief moments without the mask and they are filled with energy, inspiration and optimism.

  4. OMG – your poem moved me to tears, some of my own life came flashing back at me as my own struggles to “wake up” – you are indeed a very special man, the depth of your feelings and words honestly reached my soul and that does not happen to me very often with poetry or people for that matter.

    I could never write poems, I can write a story with depth and feeling but I can not seem to write short meaningful lines of poetry. This poem sums up the awakening of us humans and now at this time in the earth’s history it is very important for the earth and for us – some souls such as your beautiful self will definitely become “enlightened” whilst others will choose to stay asleep “without the mask I am challenged, with the mask he feels familiar” so what I am saying is most will keep with “familiar” – I honestly feel Robert you are very needed in this time and will be a huge light for other souls so lost in the darkness and if I can be a friend to you on your journey, then I will be honored as you have shed a little light on my world more than you will ever know

    Here is another titled Masks that also moved me very deeply:
    Don’t be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a thousand masks, And none of them are me. Don’t be fooled, for goodness sake, don’t be fooled.
    I give you the impression that I’m secure, that confidence is my name and coolness is my game, And that I need no one. But don’t believe me.
    Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in aloneness, in fear. That’s why I create a mask to hide behind, to shield me from the glance that knows, But such a glance is precisely my salvation.
    That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from my own self-built prison walls. I’m afraid that deep down I’m nothing and that I’m just no good, And that you will reject me.
    And so begins the parade of masks. I idly chatter to you. I tell you everything that’s really nothing and Nothing of what’s everything, of what’s crying within me.
    Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying. I’d really like to be genuine and spontaneous, and me. But you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to hold out your hand.
    Each time you’re kind and gentle, and encouraging, Each time you try to understand because you really care, My heart begins to grow wings, feeble wings, but wings.
    With your sensitivity and sympathy, and your power of understanding,
    You alone can release me from my shallow world of uncertainty.
    It will not be easy for you. The nearer you approach me, The blinder I may strike back.
    But I’m told that Love is stronger than strong walls, And in this lies my only hope.
    Please try to beat down these walls with firm hands,
    But gentle hands, for a child is very sensitive.
    Who am I, you wonder. I am every man you meet, and also every woman that you meet,
    And I am you, also.
    By Charles C. Finn

  5. I found your poem very stimulating, Robert, and it encouraged me to write this poem.

    Eye to Eye

    Blue eyes
    cold eyes
    fearful eyes
    bright eyes
    tired eyes
    public eyes
    watchful eyes
    scared eyes
    knowing eyes
    false eyes
    twinkling eyes
    worried eyes
    smiling eyes
    shifty eyes
    clear eyes

    My eyes

    • A lot of people don’t look others in the eye very much. After reading your poem I started noticing how much body language is in a person’s eyes.

      Then I wondered how much I say or let on about myself in my eyes.

      I liked the way the shape of your poem was an upside down letter ‘i’. When I noticed that I went back and noticed other interesting things that you had put into your poem:

      ‘cold eyes’ was chilling, mainly because of the large number of people I come across with cold eyes despite the mask they wear on their faces.

  6. Hi ~ this quote below is not mine, it is written (supposedly) by Jim Morrison.
    I thought it might be worth adding to this discussion.
    “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
    — Jim Morrison

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