Picking up a pen these days is like donning a mask
to dive deep, delve into the dark waters
down down below the bubbles, sinking below
the twilight zone, searching the seas
for signs of submarine life. Where there’s life, there’s hope.
It’s the same if you compose at the keyboard,
fingers clicking away, but your brain the while unrolls the tape
of words to mask the windows, prevent breakage, hide the seams
so that no hint of fear may gleam through.
The villain wears a mask and a sweeping cloak—
Darth Vader striding the decks and choking his subordinates
with an invisible fist as the destroyer flashes from star to star,
portending wars through the known galaxy.
Unmasked, he’s helpless, gasping, dying.
Kylo Ren, ranting and destroying, hardly
in control behind his imitation mask.
Demolish it and he’ll put it together again,
even scarier, with lightning flashes of red
slashing across the night.
The mask removed reveals a scarred, scared son
failed by parents and teachers alike.
The storm troopers deal death impersonal and cold
in their gleaming white masks. Uniform machinery.
But, you say, their blasters are unreliable and almost never
hit the target. Familiarity with them breeds contempt. They now seem more like jokes than boogeymen.
The blood streaked helmet, removed, reveals
an affable face. FN2187 resolves itself into
Finn, friend not foe. He can hardly be persuaded to fight
once he’s removed his mask, only love pushes back fear
to raise the sword again against the present danger.
The plague doctor wears his long beaked mask like a
crow, raven, death bird, harbinger.
Corvid so close to Covid— This doesn’t help at all,
These are the roles we play, tragic, comic,
Weeping, grinning, but who knows what is underneath the stiff
lips and gaping eyes.
These are the masks we assume
while underneath we are gibbering in fear
pushing down the panic
to pretend all is normal.
These are the faces we raise
to meet the faces that we meet.
All they see is the mask. All they hear is the mask.
No one can see your white knuckles
or hear the quiver or the swallowed lump.
Or the quickened breathing like you’re running
a race you can never win.
No one will know (unless you tell them) that you dream of piles
and piles and piles of dishtowels overwhelming
the kitchen filling the sink and the counters
more than you could ever need ever— even in the plague.
That you dream of bags and bags of sheets piling
in the hallway and a giant bag with the pieces to a thousand
thousand-piece puzzles and gruesome,
poisonous toys. A new house, dram house, but filled
with the detritus of those who came before.
Hide behind jokes and art,
music and memes.
Hide behind figures and charts,
lists and schedules.
Hide behind mockery and argument.
Deny, deride, defy;
Deter, defend, delight, design.
We mask to stop the spread
of fear, to portray Calm and Carry on.
With a friendly, firm font and a comforting
official logo. Nothing to see here, move on.
We mask to keep the other safe—
or ourselves. From pity or from fear.
Or, possibly, out of love of neighbor.
No greater love than to lay down our own fears,
to smile and keep going for the sake of those
who turn their faces up to us to see
whether it is now time to panic.
Simcha Fisher is running a drawing challenge to get us through the time of quarantine. #withdraw2020
Here are the rules:
1. Draw (or write) something every day.
2. Use the daily prompts (literally or as inspiration), or just draw whatever you want.
3. Any medium is fine, as long as it’s your own work.
4. Share it on social media and tag it #withdraw2020.
That’s it! As you shall see when you see my stuff, you don’t have to be an accomplished artist. If you miss a day, just pick up the next day.
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