green-lovers-1915 marc chagall
by Wilderness Sarchild

Some gestures are universal
no matter the language of origin:

Hands clasped in prayer
Head shaking yes or no
Two thumbs up
Wink of a flirting eye
Raised middle finger on an angry hand

Helping a person stand up who has fallen
Feeding the homeless
Risking your own life to save another

One gesture’s universal meaning
has changed in the past few months:
Wearing a mask in a store
used to indicate a robbery.
Now it just might save your life.

PAINTING: “The Green Lovers” by Marc Chagall (1915).

mask self portrait

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of the benefits of sheltering at home is that I am finding more time to write.  I’ve written a poem almost every day since March 1.  Before Covid-19, I was lucky if I wrote one poem a week. I like starting with a prompt and seeing where the poem takes me. If the journey from beginning to end surprises me, that is a good sign that this is a poem I should continue working with until it feels ready to share.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wilderness Sarchild is an award-winning poet and playwright. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Old Women Talking, published by Passager Books, and the co-author of Wrinkles, the Musical, a play about women and aging that has been produced on Cape Cod for the past three years.  She has won awards for her poetry and playwriting from Veterans for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Chicago’s Side Project Theatre Company, and the Joe Gouveia WOMR National Poetry competition, judged by Marge Piercy. She was selected as Poet of the Week on Poetry Superhighway. Wilderness is also an expressive arts psychotherapist and grandmother of six.  She is a social justice activist and is a consultant/teacher of skills in conflict resolution, consensus decision making, mediation, meeting facilitation, and empowered aging. Wilderness lives in a cottage in the woods in Brewster (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, with her husband, poet Chuck Madansky. They are surrounded by wild neighbors that include turkeys, coyote, fox, deer, squirrels, giant snapping turtles, and birds. Visit her at  and