Archives for posts with tag: Masks


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.

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.

Mitchell mask copy
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.

Mitchell copy

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

The Good Karen — a haiku sequence
by Roberta Beary

down the road —
hands stitch hours into masks
laced with ribbon

morning stillness
gowned arms carry masks
asleep in boxes

whoops of laughter
stampedes of smiley dragons
mask little faces

across continents —
hands stitch hours into masks
laced with ribbon


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This haiku sequence reflects unsung heroes, such as my friend Karen who eschews the spotlight, and spends myriad hours crafting textiles to create and donate masks to those in need, including children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roberta Beary’s second collection of short poems, Carousel, is co-winner of the Snapshot Press 2019 book award contest. Her first short-form collection, The Unworn Necklace, received a finalist book award from the Poetry Society of America. Her collection of prose poetry, Deflection, was named a National Poetry Month Best Pick by Washington Independent Review of Books. A long-term editor at Modern Haiku, she lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, Frank Stella, and tweets her photoku and micro-poetry on Twitter @shortpoemz. Read more at her website or on Facebook.

Author portrait by Henry Denander

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.

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

tsuchiya Hikarii (1940) Bush warbler
Dressing for Life’s Daily Masquerade Ball
by Joan Leotta

My mask collection sits in
A sunny spot near our door
Alongside sunglasses and keys.
Unlike Eleanor Rigby
I put one on when I go out—
No one is coming to my door
Not until stage three rolls up

I select which one to wear
By my mood—wonder woman
To conquer all, birds to honor
A desire for freedom one made
From a botanical tea towel
Bought at Churchill’s home,
Reminding me of travel’s joys.

No, I do not wear my mask to hide
Or dance coyly with a lover
I wear it to hopefully ensure
I’ll be around a little more
Hoping the same for others
Though no plague beak style
clutters my shelf,
my masks make me feel
more visible than
when wrinkles were my only mask,
disguising my still-youthful smiles.
Then, I was invisible
in lines, in talks, all day.
My colorful masks,
however, receive
comments, elicit smiles
“Wonder Woman, eh?” or
“I like those birds” and
“Such nice flowers.”
In the dance of daily chores,
I’m suddenly a fashion icon.
When I drive up to the bank,
when I stop to fill the tank.
when I fill my cart
for that night’s meal,
others only see my eyes,
but the choice of mask
is now a true reveal
of what I truly feel.
Yes, I wear my mask
to care for others.
to protect myself,
my choice of masks,
is a show of moods—
as the ball expands its venues,
perhaps I’ll add another
to my collection.

PAINTING: “Bush warbler” by Tsuchiya Hikarii (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As someone over 70, I have been closely following the sheltering mandates to stay safe. We stay mostly at home, but as the world opens up and I am out a bit more, I am considering adding to my collection.

me in a mask copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Masked or unmasked, Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems have appeared often in Silver Birch Press collections and can be found in magazines such as Gnarled Oak, Anti-Heroin Chic, Hobart Review, Peacock Journal, Pine Song, and others. Her essays, articles, and stories are also widely published. On stage, she presents folk and personal tales of food, family, and strong women. Find a mini-chapbook of her poems at Visit her at and on Facebook.