Poignant poem: ‘On Wearing a Mask’

By Jacqui L. Hershberger

Before we went
I found it — crumpled
the last one
surgical teal
In the parking lot
Do I put this on?
Really?!
I had seen a bolded blue
article I could’ve clicked on
Never did
About how more should wear
These masks
In public
An autoimmune disease
More susceptible?
How do you put it on with long hair?
On the third attempt
Car window reflection
Unmistakable blue
on my face
Elastic over the ears
Behind the neck
Hide one part
and expose another
The walk into the store
Avert eyes
Each breath
Muffled sandwich-for-lunch warmth
Jim Gaffigan’s reflective voice
“My – that lady is so freaked out, wearing that mask”
“Why doesn’t she give that to a medical person?”
“Should I have a mask on, too?”
I came into the store
Because when I grocery shop,
I have a list and then a
head list and a
Oh, that looks good, too
list
And I just can’t say it all to my husband
I wanted to get out of the house
And, this was Essential
But, the teal mask made me want to hide
Take a bag of something
Change my mind
Do I have to keep it now?
Put it back
Please Stand 6 ft Away signs
Social distancing in the dairy aisle
I jump
Literally!
With this teal mask!
Leaning on one side of the waist-high freezer
To see what’s on the opposite side
Too many people over there
And, I used to make small talk
My ears are starting to hurt
from the tension
Is it even helping?
Is it even –
necessary?
Days ago
an acquaintance and I loud talked in another store lot
“It just feels so inhuman” she said
and now, I’ve called my order in for two weeks
Patient store clerk deli cutter stocker
Picking items for me off the shelf
after listening to my long list
The mask grocery store
doesn’t deliver to my zip code
After I downloaded that app
and signed up that email
So, I smiled with my eyes
to let others pass
And hoped I didn’t see anyone I knew
I was one of those ones
Who wore a mask

Jacqui Hershberger grew up in Kidron and lives in Sugar Creek Township.

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