a-head-1915 amedeo modigliani
False Face Society Masks
                    –Joy of Museums Virtual Tours,
                       May 2020
by Marjorie Maddox

For this mask: not hallowed horsetail but
my own hair—now coronavirus style—
auburn and gray, frizzed, flopped over
the elongated features of fear—
ancient eyes, deep-set; nose bent
by the diseased scent of death—
dark-grained face chiseled and cut
from the living trees in the woods
where we’ve wandered
too long.
                    Too long we’ve wandered
in these woods, invoking the disfigured
and hunchbacked, our fractured pleas
crying out for that healing Iroquois spirit,
“Old Broken Nose,” who once tried
to move mountains, but, distracted,
looked back and, slapped on the cheek by stone,
ran off to hide his shattered countenance
in a cave. “Come out,” we pray,
“and save us!”
                    But the woods,
are just a screen we’re scrolling
on this virtual journey to nowhere,
the familiar cautionary tale interrupted
by the latest digital specter—
ironic black-and-white advertisement
for colorful masks: soft cotton, machine-washable,
available—today only—in a wide variety
of “reasonably priced” and “highly authentic”
new-age Native-American designs.

PAINTING: “The Red Head” by Amedeo Modigliani (1915).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “False Face Society Masks” was inspired by this link, especially the hair, which reminds me of what my own might look like in several months.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Winner of the 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including  Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Readiing Poems with Insider Exercises and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry; I’m Feeling Blue, Too!Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Learn more about her newest book, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems, at  www.marjoriemaddox.com.