tsuchiya Hikarii (1940) Bush warbler
Dressing for Life’s Daily Masquerade Ball
by Joan Leotta

My mask collection sits in
A sunny spot near our door
Alongside sunglasses and keys.
Unlike Eleanor Rigby
I put one on when I go out—
No one is coming to my door
Not until stage three rolls up

I select which one to wear
By my mood—wonder woman
To conquer all, birds to honor
A desire for freedom one made
From a botanical tea towel
Bought at Churchill’s home,
Reminding me of travel’s joys.

No, I do not wear my mask to hide
Or dance coyly with a lover
I wear it to hopefully ensure
I’ll be around a little more
Hoping the same for others
Though no plague beak style
clutters my shelf,
my masks make me feel
more visible than
when wrinkles were my only mask,
disguising my still-youthful smiles.
Then, I was invisible
in lines, in talks, all day.
My colorful masks,
however, receive
comments, elicit smiles
“Wonder Woman, eh?” or
“I like those birds” and
“Such nice flowers.”
In the dance of daily chores,
I’m suddenly a fashion icon.
When I drive up to the bank,
when I stop to fill the tank.
when I fill my cart
for that night’s meal,
others only see my eyes,
but the choice of mask
is now a true reveal
of what I truly feel.
Yes, I wear my mask
to care for others.
to protect myself,
my choice of masks,
is a show of moods—
as the ball expands its venues,
perhaps I’ll add another
to my collection.

PAINTING: “Bush warbler” by Tsuchiya Hikarii (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As someone over 70, I have been closely following the sheltering mandates to stay safe. We stay mostly at home, but as the world opens up and I am out a bit more, I am considering adding to my collection.

me in a mask copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Masked or unmasked, Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems have appeared often in Silver Birch Press collections and can be found in magazines such as Gnarled Oak, Anti-Heroin Chic, Hobart Review, Peacock Journal, Pine Song, and others. Her essays, articles, and stories are also widely published. On stage, she presents folk and personal tales of food, family, and strong women. Find a mini-chapbook of her poems at orgamipoems.com. Visit her at joanleotta.wordpress.com and on Facebook.