Archives for category: WEARING A MASK


Thank you to the 105 contributors from around the world who participated in our WEARING A MASK Series, which ran from May 21-June 24, 2020. Our deepest appreciation for the following authors (and one artist) for contributing their work to the series! Cheers!

Sarah Alfonsi
MP Armstrong
Carol Alena Aronoff
Barbara Bald
Janet Banks
Amy Bassin
Roberta Beary
Shelly Blankman
Mark Blickley
Rose Mary Boehm
Boutheina Boughnin
Gregory Brooks
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
Ranney Campbell
Patricia Carragon
Nikki Carter
Lael Cassidy
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Patrice Boyer Claeys
Joan Colby
Clive Collins
Joe Cottonwood
Barbara Crary
Subhankar Das
Susan L. DeMiller
Steven Deutsch
Julie A. Dickson
Dakota Donovan
Barbara Eknoian
Joseph A. Farina
Jennifer Finstrom
Beth Fox
Preeth Ganapathy
Edna Garcia
Lourdes A. Gautier
Gail Goepfert
Vince Gotera
Vijaya Gowrisankar
Jae Green
Anita Haas
Zoë Hajec
Oz Hardwick
Ken Hartke
John Haugh
Veronica Hosking
Fiona Johnston
Joseph Johnston
Cecilia Kennedy
Tricia Knoll
Chuck Kramer
Jennifer Lagier
Marie C. Lecrivain
Joan Leotta
Shontay Luna
Rick Lupert
Anne Namatsi Lutomia
Marjorie Maddox
Sarah Mak
Betsy Mars
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Mary C. McCarthy
Linda McKenney
Bob McNeil
Michele Mekel
Robert Minicucci
Neil David Mitchell
Olaniyi Ololade Moses
Jagari Mukherjee
Priyanka Mukherjee
Shelli Narang
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Carolyn O’Connell
James Penha
David T. Pennington
Kaitlyn Perrin
Apoorva B. Raj
Angie Raney
Patrick T. Reardon
Jeannie E. Roberts
Stephen Thomas Roberts
Kerfe Roig
Alexis Rotella
Sarah Russell
Stephanie JT Russell
d.r. sanchez
Wilderness Sarchild
Ndaba Sibanda
Leslie Sittner
Clifton Snider
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
Terrence Sykes
Ann Christine Tabaka
Lynn Tait
Thomas R. Thomas
Mary Langer Thompson
Smitha Vishwanath
Alan Walowitz
Nancy Wheaton
Kelley White
Lynn White
Lisa Wiley
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

To revisit the series, click this link.  Stay tuned for future calls for submissions!

Photo by Dan Formsma on Unsplash

The Eyes Have It
by Rick Lupert

When the governor said we all had to wear masks
I painted the word poetry on a piece of cloth and
covered my face with it, so everyone within six feet
would know where I was coming from.

I barely open the front door anymore, let alone
walk through it, let alone operate the motor vehicle.
But once a woman outside of the pet store came to
me with a bag of cat litter. She placed it right in the trunk.

Her eyes were everything I knew about her.
Another time in the drive-through at the coffee place
the person who handed me the drinks had painted
around the parts not covered and I could tell she

was smiling by how wide her eyes opened.
This is how we communicate now that our mouths
are off the table. When one part becomes inoperable
another’s abilities are heightened.

Like the part of me at home, or inside the cloth
that becomes extra-aware of what it’s like when two
human beings almost occupy the same space.
Masks used to be a metaphor but now

they’re so literal you can feel when they soak
up your sweat, or, if this is the way your body works,
when the prickles of your beard poke through
the mesh. Now everyone has something to hide.

And we get away with it. Until the scientists
make it go away. Until this is a memory on
a vaccination form. A box checked by a doctor like
all the long-gone sicknesses we still hold nostalgia for.

PHOTO: The author at the vet with his un-masked kitty, Bootsy.
(Photo by Rick Lupert)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We send out children to school and camp with the requisite vaccination forms…my hope is that someday soon, “COVID-19” will be just another checkbox on this form.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway  and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks, was released in March 2016. He’s authored 23 collections of poetry, including Hunka Hunka Howdy, Beautiful Mistakes, and God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild,  A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for Jewish Journal. He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Follow him on Facebook.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Sunshine Kills the Virus
by Ranney Campbell

behind the house, on a few dry inclines
passersby are occasional
but I am determined to reach
a certain height on the turning trail
and dismiss encounters from my mind
as each person slips the gravel away from me

think instead of the smell of lizard skin
listen for kangaroo rat kicking
sand and identify the passing
vegetation; which is indigenous
which invasive, as it appears presently
beneath my brim

leave the trail and negotiate piles of new-
ly earthquake-loosened slabs, precarious
now, the glassy grey quartz and pink
feldspar potassium bouncing sunshine onto me

lie                              positioned
in earshot of what might encroach
crunch of footfalls

to find me

     I remove the red rose
sandals, curl a finger
behind my ear
to draw
off my mask
then my shirt, pull
giving underclothes


that back in that cloud-flattened city
if you died, no one would even inform me
       because this is who I am             to you

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write when I have to. Sunshine Kills the Virus; self-evident.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ranney Campbell is from St. Louis, Missouri, where she worked as a freelance writer, including for the Associated Press and Reuters International News Agency. She earned a General Studies B.S., with concentrations in psychology, American politics, public affairs journalism, writing, and gender studies, and an MFA in fiction from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Her poetry is published in Redshift 4, by Arroyo Seco Press, will appear in the Summer 2020 edition of Shark Reef Literary Magazine, and has been accepted by The Main Street Rag Publishing Company for a future edition of its quarterly literary magazine. She lives in Southern California.


The Cooperative
by David T. Pennington

Cloaked and mystified, we drift past each other, hidden smiles inferred from a crinkle of the eyes, a lifting of the cheekbones, a slight nod of the head. Revealing responsibility through partial obscurity, we honor the perished and safeguard the vulnerable. Though our species has the unique ability to envision the future, we often fall short of taking the long view. That shortcoming is a result of another distinct trait of ours: hope.

We hope it will be over soon, this masking and distancing, and that hope protects us from imagining a future in which our children feel as naked without face masks as we feel without clothes. But our hope, our faith, is not blind. We will lead ourselves into the future we desire—one where hugs and smiles have replaced separation and concealment—by being alone for a while. We must be apart now so we can be together later. In time, the experts among us will develop defenses against the invisible enemy. Until that knowledge fully unfolds, we will continue to drift past each other, still cloaked but perhaps a little less mystified.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Lately, I have been quite upset by science deniers and protesters against shelter-in-place. For this piece, I chose to ignore them completely, focusing instead on the majority. For the most part, we are strangers looking out for one another, and that deserves to be highlighted.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David T. Pennington is the author of The Peer Through Time Chronicles. While his associate degree in computer programming helps pay the bills, his bachelor’s degree in psychology has informed his writing. His love of fiction—mainly mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers—is balanced by his fascination with books on futurism, theoretical physics, and cosmology. Find out more at and visit his Amazon author’s page.

Photo on 5-27-20 at 5.39 PM
some ways to say mask
by Stephanie JT Russell

What if this mascarilla draws up threads of light and time from
beneath the forest floor? What if this kimāma ushers your dead
to the navel of renewal? What if this pkkhlum, veil between breaths,
is grandmother’s conundrum of mourning? This kinyago, molded
to the face of the world, portal to beauties of variation? This saynata,
a path that is single, known only to its walker?

What if these parda were not stonewall, nor camouflage, nor shrouds,
nor prophylaxis against a worst imagining of what you can become?
What if these habiliments hide nothing, reveal all, lead back to
the knowing—that you are not alone in this, or any other, state of due transition? That when the kinapak is unloosed, what’s left is this web
of self and selves, taste of air and pine, a gratitude on the skin.
Your eyes in shadow, threads of light and time, unveil the way home.
* The ways “mask” is said in this poem:
mascarilla / Spanish; kimāma / Arabic; pkkhlum / Thai;
kinyago / Kiswahili; saynata / Quechua; parda / Urdu; kinapak / Inuit.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My work is a meditation on the pathos and paradox of our existence on this planet. I explore realms of consciousness as fleeting works of art in and of themselves, in an ekphrasis of experience. My creative ethos is grounded in an urgency to awaken awareness of the moment, and through awareness, a glimpse of abiding empathy. There’s nothing more human, or more urgently needed than building a culture of empathy in a world gone quite mad. Poets have been doing that job for centuries, and we won’t be quitting anytime soon.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie JT Russell is a seasoned interdisciplinary artist, published author, editor, essayist, and cultural worker. The most recent of her nine creative nonfiction books is One Flash of Lightning: A Samurai Path for Living the Moment (Andrews McMeel). Russell’s poetry has been anthologized in books and journals such as Words Upon the Water, Oakland Out Loud, MR/Metropolitan Review, Friends Journal, Rabbit & Rose (curated by 2018 San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Schuck), Xavier Review, Peacock Journal, The Winter Anthology, and Sequestrum. A nominee for 2019 Dutchess County Poet Laureate, Russell’s full-length poetry manuscript Promethea Interprets Talmud / While Dying in the Rest Home, was shortlisted for the prestigious Washington Prize in 2019. Russell’s visual art, poetry, and performance work have been presented at Hallwalls, CEPA, The Barrett Art Center, The Griffin Museum of Photography, Artspace, NAME, The Albright Knox Gallery, The Ampex American Music Festival, Cody’s Books, Max Fish, Bowery Poetry Club, and numerous other venues in the US, Canada, and overseas. She is currently at work on a chapbook titled Putting It Right, and is organizing Just Lit!, the first three-day poetry festival to occur in December 2020 in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she has lived since 2013.

Unmask Your Unreal Self
by Apoorva B. Raj

Masking my days with a smile
Asking myself how long to bear all this
Searching in the mirror
Life spent pleasing others, playing roles, accepting tasks,
challenging fate, and repenting for not daring to be me
My soul says,
“Unmask your grotesque face
Lift your unimaginable side
Burnish that unpleasant smile
Laugh at your pretentious acts, accept that you are not what others see.
You are the hidden storm and burning fire before that looking glass!”

Photo by PDPics, used by permission

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem tries to give voice to the suppressed voice of many  women who from birth live under under customs and traditions. Here the mask is covering the woman’s real personality. The poem indicates that the action of unmasking the masked face is like revealing the hidden self. For this, women have to act consciously. Thus it stresses the necessity for women’s empowerment all over the world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Apoorva B. Raj is assistant professor, Department of English, Govt First Grade College, Mudigere, Chikamagaluru, Karnataka, India. Her poems and articles have been published in international and national journals. She loves writing poetry, and thinks poetry is the index of one’s  mind (thought).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Beside my son Dhavan, it’s me Apoorva B. Raj in the mask. The photo was taken when we were traveling by train to Bangalore on a vacation.

Hidden Identities
by Ann Christine Tabaka

Sad eyes weep through painted faces,
masked in solitude amid the crowd.
No one dares look to see behind
a future dark and bleak.
Colorful designs dance across sullen frowns.
Compassion talks a stalwart story
filtered through papered lips.
Identities hide like a thief in the night.
Suffocating, I reach to expose my breath,
to gasp in life, to exhale grief.
All the while we march along,
distancing our hope.
Sheltered from existence,
sheltered from the truth.
Love creeps through in spite of fear.
Masks rain to the ground in gay profusion,
blanketing the earth.
Stepping out into the sunshine,
life takes hold once more.

PHOTO: “Bronze mask sculpture” by Joseph Bernardi, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Ideas and emotions percolate up from inside me, and I am compelled to write about them. Some of my poems and stories are based in reality, but I tend to prefer the ethereal. I first started writing poetry in 1965, when I was 14 years old. I kept a handwritten journal of all my rhymes and musings — it read like a diary of my life. I was a Fine Arts major in college, but switched gears to become an organic chemist as my career. I became serious about publishing my poetry in 2017 after being encouraged by other poet friends.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year, her bio is featured in the Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020, published by Sweetycat Press. Chris has been internationally published, and has won poetry awards from numerous publications. Her work has been translated into Sequoyah-Cherokee Syllabics and into Spanish. The author of 11 poetry books, she recently has been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications. A resident of Delaware, where she lives with her husband and four cats, she loves gardening and cooking. Recent credits are: The American Writers Review, The Phoenix; Burningword Literary Journal, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Write Connection, Ethos Literary Journal, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, and Fourth & Sycamore. Visit her at and on her Amazon author’s page.

Wearing a Mask in Summertime
by Boutheina Boughnim Laarif

I wear the quilted pad,
Soft like a cherished napkin,
A snake’s second skin…
Encumbering like a medieval soldier’s plastron−

I can feel inhalation circulating,
Titillating my nostrils,
Sweat droplets are forming,
Not beads, too poetic for them!

No harangue for today,
A hundred herring fish are dancing
Underneath my mask…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Boutheina Boughnim Laarif has undertaken a Ph.D which proposes a postmodern approach to W. H. Auden’s poetry and metrical art (Faculty of Arts of Manouba, Tunisia) — published in 2020 by Cambridge Scholars under the title W.H. Auden’s “The Healing Fountain”: A Reading Inspired by A. Aviram’s Theory of Poetic Rhythm. A Lecturer of English literature, she has published articles that focus on philosophical, aesthetic theories of poetic rhythm, Nietzsche’s theory of the lyric, Heidegger’s philosophy of art and politics, among which, Rhythm Reconsidered: Philippe Lacoue Labarthe’s Musical Poetics of the Subject,was published in Harts and Minds electronic journal (2014).  Her first poetry collection, Fractal Reflections, was published in 2015. Her poems have appeared in the online weekly poetry journal Dystenium Journal, in the quarterly poetry journal The Cannon’s Mouth, and in several poetry anthologies.

mask-1970 taro okamoto
Masked Layers
by d.r. sanchez

I was given some I cannot wear
Homemade and bought
Their fabric tight against my face
Too tight I discovered
When claustrophobia turned to panic
Large bones
Large feet
Large face
Big head
Even with a larger mask that fits
I must force my breath to slow
To push the anxiety deep
Behind the mask I must
Are the ones I need
Beneath the surface
Projecting the pseudo me
Protecting the fragile me

IMAGE: “Mask” by Taro Okamoto (1970).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Recent weeks of (undiagnosed) illness have made stay-at-home mandates easy to follow. When I could at last leave home for short trips, I found that I’m much happier when I go nowhere, at least for now. Physical masks – that fit or that do not – are not easy for me. The invisible ones are vital and easier to wear than to bare.

drsanchez writer-profile

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Sanchez is an award-winning bilingual author. She has moved over 30 times and has lived in five states in two countries…so far. She leads and attends various writing groups in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, and also hosts writing retreats. Four of her books have earned awards from The Author Zone (2017, 2018, 2020), and her other writing has won awards at writers’ conferences in various genres, including children’s stories, poetry, fantasy, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Several of her plays and monologues have been produced and published. Other works have been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit for more details, visit her Amazon author page, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Face
by Neil David Mitchell

One small step from subterfuge,
Bluff, facade, masquerade,
From the cheating of time
We wake.

We made-believe,
Covered flaking ruins,
Touched up these perishing temples,
To walk on stage.

A ritual we did not believe:
A sacrifice of self-deceit,
To our generational lines.

Like children of the Blitz,
Anderson shelters fastened round our ears,
We rush below the surface,
Make one giant leap to preservation,
Our fears stuffed in our shrouds,
But free our hidden faces,
Accept our inner Vader,
Unleash straggly, silver hair,
Take our time to breathe,
And let inner beauty

As we dam up our saliva,
Barricade the flotsam of our words,
Moderate the deluge of our tongues,
Shawl our atomic self-critic minds.
May our masks
Mediate for our neighbors,
And free us
To recognize ourselves,
In the veils we wear,
That we are one.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For this poem, I was considering how the motivation to wear a physical mask is actually one of kindness and love for your neighbor, whereas the more figurative masks we are used to wearing come from much more of a place of self-interest. We try to present our best faces to the world in order to somehow create a better impression, get ahead, feel more value. Ironically, it seems to me, the wearing of a face mask unifies us in our shared humanity and removes some of this self-interest we are often forced by society to adopt.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neil David Mitchell, from Glasgow, Scotland, writes poetry, prose, and music, as well as balances the challenging and wonderful roles of being a high  school English teacher, a husband, and a father. (Not necessarily ranked in order of importance!) He has had his poetry published in the dVerse Anthology (Voices of Contemporary World Poetry), and in the Blue Heron Review, and recently published his first collection of poems Seasonal Lines. His further adventures can be followed on Twitter @ndsnigh or at