woman-with-veil-1895 odilon redon
Wearing a Mask—Got it covered
by Joanie HF Zosike

The epidermis mask beneath the
pandemic semblance is an
aspect I donned shortly
before the mandate
My natural-born yesterday’s mask
was a placid lake of face serene
a demeanor that would under
no circumstance rupture
or flicker—tide, time, love, violence
couldn’t lacerate the tranquility of
flesh—beneath lie more layers—
volcanic, ecstatic ooze
Under no circumstance would the
under-mask rupture or flicker;
Time, love, violence can’t
alter flesh’s harmony
Flesh face goes against pandemic mask’s
grain—altruism is hard to breathe, loss
of air causes thrashing rebellion
Mask plunges pain inward
Sometimes face wants to smile
send out signs of recognition
We’re all in this together
To what will we return
Eyes crinkle over artificial mask
Epidermis mask takes blame
This is my pandemic smile
We are all the same
I want to know the name of same—
to reach past my human borders
a tyranny of paper and cloth
free from legislated torpor
Someday I will throw off the coil
Escape the borders of comity
Awaken truth of my face—
alight with honesty

PAINTING: “Woman with Veil” by Odilon Redon (1895).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Ah mask. It’s a complicated relationship. My lifesaver. Strangles me. Sometimes I feel cool wearing it, like I’m part of a bigger thing. I am. We all are. Everyone stay safe and be well!

Hieger-2 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanie HF Zosike, 2019 Writer’s Hotel Sara Patton poetry stipend recipient, hosts Pandemic Poetry Workshop sponsored by School for Creative Judaism in New York City. Spaces are still available — visit this link for more information.   Her writing appears in Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters, Women In American Theatre, and 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy. Chapbooks include Character Poems (Chez Chez, 2002) and Bliss, Not Weight,(anthologized in Ides, Silver Birch Press, 2015). Publications include Dissident Voice, Heresies, Home Planet News, Jewish Forward, Levure Literraire, Maintenant, Public Illumination Magazine (PIM), Syndic, and Zeitriss. She’s written seven full-length plays and four solo theatre works, received an Edward Albee fellowship and a Foundation for Jewish Culture grant for …and Then the Heavens Closed. A member of Hell’s Kitchen Poetry Society, Joanie worked with The Living Theatre for 30 years, directs/acts with DADAnewyork, and co-directs Action Racket Theatre.