With a Mask copy
i kind of like the masks
by MP Armstrong

a voice admits, blurred by distance
(likely more than the mandated six
feet) and veneer of technology that
floats, pervasive, in the air of current
events. i kind of like them, too; after
twenty years of shopping trips to my
internal joann fabric for scraps thick
enough, brightly patterned enough,
to hide, i am no longer the only one
tucked away in the darkness between
folds and forcing my falsified smiles
to reach my eyes. i kind of like the
sewing, the repetitive choreography
of the needle bobbing up and down
like a boat on a thin thread wave, the
boxes lined with stacks featuring the
logos of sports teams and characters
from cartoons, shipped to humanize
doctors in their sterile gowns, protect
grocery store clerks and customers in
equal measure. and i cannot say that
i like the masks, because this is no
kind of equality to enjoy; this is not a
sustainable disguise. i am supposed
to feel miserable like everyone else
baking their sourness into bread, not
icing a batch of pastries with a sweet
sugar glaze and a smile. my job is to
grimace, complain, not drown in my
own relief. but still, i like the masks.

Without a Mask copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I listen to a podcast called “Our Plague Year,” and certain episodes feature voicemails left by listeners describing their experiences. One man called to say that he actually kind of liked the masks that are now mandated by many states, and his sentiment really resonated with me; considering how long I’ve had to wear a mask for my own protection in other ways, as an afab person navigating patriarchal spaces, as a closeted queer person existing in a heteronormative world, and as a young person fighting for respect, it is almost a relief to know that others are living the uncomfortable experience of constantly wearing a mask and understanding the risk of removing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MP Armstrong is a disabled queer poet from Ohio, studying English and history at Kent State University. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Luna Negra, Red Earth Review, and Social Distanzine, among others. They also serve as managing editor and reporter for Curtain Call and Fusion magazines. In their spare time, they enjoy traveling, board games, and brightly colored blazers. Find them online @mpawrites and at mpawrites.wixsite.com/website.