Archives for category: WEARING A MASK

Bob McNeil, host of a Halloween Celebration in the Bronx, with other festive folks
Foreclosure on the Rye
by Bob McNeil

Oh, Holden, here in your grey hair age,
     You must comprehend that hypocrisy is
     A heart-in-chest-vital chemical
     Needed for diurnal to nocturnal survival.
Oh, Holden, here in your grey hair age,
     Know that adults can’t calculate the rate of times
     We use masks woven with mendaciousness
     Just for a smidgen of socialness.
Oh, Holden, here in your grey hair age,
     Understand grown-ups strive to lie or lie to thrive,
     And you, too, must become content
     With adulthood’s demon-deceitful intent.
Oh, Holden, here in your grey hair age,
     Realize a Catcher in the Rye is as needed
     As Hessian flies that are well-fed
     Regardless of everything idealists said.

Photo: Bob McNeil (second from left) hosts a Halloween celebration in the Bronx with other festive folks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Among Bob McNeil’s recent accomplishments as a writer and editor, he found working on the anthology entitled Lyrics of Mature Hearts to be a humbling experience because of the talented contributors. Further information about the aforesaid collection and other literary endeavors can be found at Amazon, subterraneanbluepoetry, and youtube.

With a Mask copy
i kind of like the masks
by MP Armstrong

a voice admits, blurred by distance
(likely more than the mandated six
feet) and veneer of technology that
floats, pervasive, in the air of current
events. i kind of like them, too; after
twenty years of shopping trips to my
internal joann fabric for scraps thick
enough, brightly patterned enough,
to hide, i am no longer the only one
tucked away in the darkness between
folds and forcing my falsified smiles
to reach my eyes. i kind of like the
sewing, the repetitive choreography
of the needle bobbing up and down
like a boat on a thin thread wave, the
boxes lined with stacks featuring the
logos of sports teams and characters
from cartoons, shipped to humanize
doctors in their sterile gowns, protect
grocery store clerks and customers in
equal measure. and i cannot say that
i like the masks, because this is no
kind of equality to enjoy; this is not a
sustainable disguise. i am supposed
to feel miserable like everyone else
baking their sourness into bread, not
icing a batch of pastries with a sweet
sugar glaze and a smile. my job is to
grimace, complain, not drown in my
own relief. but still, i like the masks.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I listen to a podcast called “Our Plague Year,” and certain episodes feature voicemails left by listeners describing their experiences. One man called to say that he actually kind of liked the masks that are now mandated by many states, and his sentiment really resonated with me; considering how long I’ve had to wear a mask for my own protection in other ways, as an afab person navigating patriarchal spaces, as a closeted queer person existing in a heteronormative world, and as a young person fighting for respect, it is almost a relief to know that others are living the uncomfortable experience of constantly wearing a mask and understanding the risk of removing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MP Armstrong is a disabled queer poet from Ohio, studying English and history at Kent State University. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Luna Negra, Red Earth Review, and Social Distanzine, among others. They also serve as managing editor and reporter for Curtain Call and Fusion magazines. In their spare time, they enjoy traveling, board games, and brightly colored blazers. Find them online @mpawrites and at

In a Time of Hidden Faces
by Carol A. Stephen

This face, my mask of age, slips south
into my neck, wrinkles drawn down by time
and gravity into folds, creases, wattle.
Still, when youth shines forth in my smile, wrinkles
tighten. Years slip away. Or they did—

Now, a different mask, a swath of black cloth
covers dimples, highlights the slight droop
of lower eyelid under my glasses.

Over my shoulder, masks of the past
stare blank-eyed from the wall, and I remember
those days in Venice, that long-ago night in Rome,
the sweetness of a kiss by the Trevi fountain.

Those kissed lips hide now under my new mask, worn
for your safety. I cannot offer you a grin, but
I offer the people of my world my respect,
expressed by this black band across my face.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As we all consider social distancing, and that we are all in this fight against COVID-19, I thought also about my collection of carnival masks, displayed on my wall, as well as how our own faces present different masks to the world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol A. Stephen’s poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead, June 2017, and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks, Sound Me When I’m Done and Teasing the Tongue. Online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words.  She won third prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices.  She served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series. She has five chapbooks, two released in 2018 — Unhook, catkin press, Carleton Place, and Lost Silence of the Small, Local Gems Press, Long Island, NY.  In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile was published by Crowe

My Unwanted Mask
by Edna Garcia

Behind layers of makeup
     And coats of lipstick,
     I covered my bruises
     And busted lip.
Behind hair swept over a black eye
     And swollen jaw,
     I maintained a comforting mask
     For my daughter and son,
Behind a facade for friends,
     Family members and an oblivious society,
     This bruised and battered woman
     Hated her abusive husband,
     And despised an old decade
     That allowed men to use women
     As possessions for uninvited desires.
Behind the fakery of matrimonial compatibility,
     My newly formed self-worth emerged
     And raised children on my own.
     From a warring divorce,
     I found the victory of peace.
     Unmasked and honest,
     I faced my future.

Copyright 2020, Edna Garcia.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edna Iris Garcia was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico. She received a BA and a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education, and was the first Latina in Fairfield County elected to the Connecticut General Assembly.  For over 40 years, she served her community with notable distinction, and has received numerous awards for her efforts to better the city and state.   At present, she is finishing a semi-autobiographical novel.

Photo: Edna Garcia and a disguised friend.

The Demon Speaks
by Robbi Nester
     After a Sri Lankan Sickness Mask from Horniman Museum

I am Kora Sanniya! Anyone I touch falls lame. No one
can defeat me, least of all those fools, with their drum
and dance, that stupid wooden mask. It’s nothing
like me, with its crooked grimace, eyes bulging
like a frog’s, ears like spoons. The shaman dips
and dances, pretending to be me, his bulging belly
bouncing, and the mask, it makes them laugh!
He mocks me, and the other demons crow
and point. Even the patient grins, when he
should moan and weep. I lost my face. Another
claimed it, stealing my voice, my name.

Photo of sickness mask © Horniman Museum and Gardens.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem to be included in my upcoming anthology, but thought it might attract a few more submitters to have this appear in Silver Birch Press first.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester wears masks herself quite frequently these days to ward off Covid-19. She is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies, including a new one, The Plague Papers, which celebrates online museums, zoos, aquariums, and virtual collections of all kinds. People who wish to participate must choose an object, work, or specimen from such a collection and write a poem or short piece of prose. Send it to The current deadline of May 31, 2020 will be extended to June 30, 2020. Send your work as a Word document and include your name, email address, and a link to the object you’ve written about.

Dream, Day 63
by Zoë Hajec

Free and flying.
This is the life I dream of at night in my temporary escape.
Feet pounding against the hot summer sand and cool waves rushing between my toes.
The sun beats down upon my pale skin.
Light hits the vast body of water before me,
shattering into a million pieces.
Birds chirp and fly freely.
The air smells of the fresh green grass on a cool summer’s morning,
when the world’s surfaces are misty with dew droplets.
The air smells of the rough waves of the Great Lakes breaking upon a boulder and spraying its contents like confetti.
I can see the world’s movements in colors.
Vibrant and alive once more,

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by a dream I had around day 63 of quarantine. Since the start of the quarantine all anyone ever hears about is what has been lost or canceled. Personally it became too much to constantly think about all the things I couldn’t do anymore, so I started thinking about all the things I could. One of those things is dreaming, and this is my dream.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Zoë Hajec is a high school junior/rising senior heavily involved in her school’s magnet program, CAPA. She enjoys learning and plans to attend a university in the fall of 2021 as a first-generation college student. Zoë also has her own online store called Zoë Dreams on Bonfire, where she sells her shirt designs. In her free time she likes listening to music, reading, and learning sign language. Recently she has begun thinking about creating a blog to publish her writing, offer advice, as well as talk about her online store and her hopes and dreams. Visit her on Twitter and Instagram.

I Might Need This Some Day
by Tricia Knoll

The day began with flag waving. Then drapes, generous blankets going in and rolled out to iced and rumbling trucks. Coffins in parallel lines on a bingo board.

Your thought was nonchalant (waste takes no haste) when you tucked remnants inside the sewing kit: I might need this some day. (No one ever believes that.)

So you dust off that case on a closet shelf beside your first-aid kit and summer’s electric fan and open it up. Acknowledge the red pin-cushion heart that came as wedding gift. Peel open curls of rolled cotton leftovers: stars splattered on black, red boats with sails unfurled. The teddy bears that beared-up your baby’s room as curtains on the window to the fir tree where the raccoon ate the robin’s babies. Two apron strings from your mother when you turned twenty-one. Those never-mind fabrics: old dreams in dark caverns.

This is some day. Now a bear mask on my lips, headdress below my nose. Filter my spare words. See beyond memory in the crosswalk.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Tricia Knoll, a Vermont poet, knows that she is at-risk. She tries to write a poem or haiku nearly every day and wears a mask with small flowers on it. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collected books of poetry include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press), Ocean’s Laughter (Kelsay Books), and Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box). Her recent collection How I Learned To Be White received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Read more of her work at Find her on Amazon and Twitter.

Picture 52
by Joan Colby

Our daughter is at the door with
A plastic baggie containing two masks
And some alcohol wipes. Ordered from China
A month ago,they have finally arrived
In time, we hope, to save us.

I contemplate if you had survived
How would we have managed—getting you to the
Clinics for the treatments that kept you alive.
These clinics might be closed like
Everything else. To shelter in place, for you
Would have been suicide.

Anyway, you died before that could
Happen. One bad thing, at least, that you
Dodged. You could hardly breathe—
How would you have tolerated this mask?

O my unmasked love, I’m glad you didn’t have
To bear any more even if, for me, it seems
To venture into the poisoned world
With a white cup over my face
Like a muzzled animal—no words, no cry.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written after the death of my husband on Feb. 27 just before the Covid-19 virus hit us. This poem will ultimately be part of a book to be called The Salt Widow.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). Her poems are winners of the 2014 and 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She also was selected as an International Merit Award Winner in the 2015 Atlanta Review contest She has published 22 books including  Selected  Poems, which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize  “and Ribcage, which won the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her latest books are Her Heartsongs  from Presa Press, Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press and Bony Old Folks from Cyberwit Press. She has a new book forthcoming from The Poetry Box titled The Kingdom of the Birds. She is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review.

May 3rd (Q Day #50): Día de los Muertos Mask
by Robert Minicucci

This mask, purchased from an artist friend living in Ohio with his wife (a           great writer),

is my Double-Crested Blue Jay to viral insults and assaults.

Greet gray death with color.

“We all die a little each day as we live,” chirps the happy skull. “It’s           always close.”

A dark flock constantly circling.

When it gets closer, I will make one last

poke-of-the-finger at a scraggly crow’s short sharp beak

just as the rest of the murder encircles me and feasts.

This mask protects or smothers. Depends on your choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Minicucci lives near Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife, two of his three children, and a brindle rescue hound named Josie. He came back to poetry after reading One of Us Is Lost by Robert Dunn (a local Portsmouth poet), and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, whom he met in 2018 at a University of New Hampshire reading. He’s had work published in the New Hampshire-based poetry zine Good Fat, as well as the online journals Spank the Carp and Rat’s Ass Review. He is on twitter @robertminicucci when he’s not working on his chapbook.

by Kerfe Roig

What looks back? An outline, an ear, a nose? Where is the mouth? Emotions ride the eyes in waves over the barrier between inside and out.
to balance
breath with invisibility
The atmosphere is unsettled. Who (e)merges, from and with, behind, between?
This face: who does it belong to? It appears liquid, fractured like a mirrored jewel, shimmering with unnamable currents, transformed by filtered light. Both distorted and reflected.
disembodied words
search for certainty—was it
ever really there?

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I look in the mirror to adjust my mask, I barely recognize my face, especially with my sweatshirt hood pulled up. And it feels strange to go outside among mostly masked people who avoid even looking at each other as they hurry past. My first forays out were always in drizzle or right after it had rained. The face in puddles was even more alien than that of the one in the mirror.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerfe Roig lives and works in New York City, where she plays with images and words and blogs about it at

Illustrations by the author.