(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning )

How do I love thee, dear mask? Let me count the ways.

l love thee to the depth and breadth and height of your clever designs, the softness of your cloth and whimsical illustrations that my soul can reach for the ends of being (bad choice of words, Liz) and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet needs, (bathing, online shopping, texts, Facebooking and Facetiming, TikToking, and all that include avoiding contamination of organs)

by sun and candlelight (should the power go out).

I love thee freely, as men (but mostly women) strive for right, or even when they try and fail.

I love thee purely as I do She, who turns from praise, and embraces privacy.

I love thee with the passion (put to use to write with the poetry of laughter) put to use in my old griefs (a list too long to mention).

And with my childhood faith (even when it’s tested, strained, mocked and set upon by white men in power who are blinded by greed, votes and racism).

I love thee, mask, with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints (and long dead heroes).

I love thee with the breadth, smiles, tears of all my life (past but not forgotten) and present (frightening, but empowering).

And if God (in her mercy) should choose, I shall love thee better after death (and dying ceases), and all across the planet in every country, every city, village and neighborhood, we select a special day we’ll name (and don’t take this personally dear masks):

“THE BURNING OF THE MASKS AND GLOVES.”

Imagine, if you can, a day when from Portland to Paris, Boston to Berlin, Toronto to Tokyo, Bangor to Beijing, huge bonfires light up the skies, and when men and women will hug — yes, hug — kiss, and sit beside one another in movie and live theaters, drink wine and dip croissants in au jus, side by side.

Imagine.

I know it’s a fantasy, and the epidemiologists, social scientists and the corrupt politicians who wrap themselves in flags and benefit from dissent and disorder, will continue to scoff, twirl their mustaches and turn the plowshares of hope into verbal weapons for profit and fame.

Yes, dear mask, you, who has kept me and my loved ones alive — and if God should choose — I shall but love thee better after death.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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