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The Masks
by Jay Passer

at the Golden Veggie Market
she checks out the groceries
just apples lemons and whitefish today

I’ve never seen her face
since the store changed hands
during the early days of the pandemic

the new owners have yet to price half the stock
but she knows exactly how much everything is
guacamole salsa, Greek yogurt, ginger root

I can make out her smile under the mask
and her bright eyes as she rings me up
spry almond-eyed crystalline woman!

and that’s it for the day
as my glasses fog up from the mask
hitting Polk Street at California

headed back to quarantine
the cable cars haven’t been running either
I think I’ll steam the fish with basmati rice

PHOTO: Woman modeling reusable face mask available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The lady from this poem was way too shy to agree to a photo op — in fact, I have a feeling she had little idea what I was talking about, so I left that alone, because I shop there primarily, and don’t want things to be weird.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jay Passer’s work has been published in print and online in dozens of periodicals spanning the globe since 1988. His most recent collections, Unendurable Illumination, from Cyberwit Press, and Prelude to the Culling, from Alien Buddha Press, both appeared in 2020. He is the author of 12 chapbooks and has been included in several anthologies. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, California, the city of his birth.