by JS Nahani


after Allison Pelegrin, with a line from Sam Cooke

O, Lady of the Masks, tell me:
how are your hands holding up

as you gently push the pedal, control
the needle, hum a soft tune to no one,

create mask after mask, as time stretches
sour across this jelly year. Dear Lady,

behind each mask you make, a mouth—
smiling or snarling, tight-lipped, or hungry,

shades of brown, of crimson, pale pink,
and you, diligently learning to master creation

after creation, our destiny, a secret message
stitched into the fold. This is not the stuff

of which superheroes are made, no, but a call
for survival. You have perfected the nose pinch,

made it airy enough, adjustable. Show me the one
with soothing print, a blue sky, or an extra

starry night. Show me the one with polka dots
or pussycats, messages that matter, anything.

Masked Lady, how do you imagine our love
for you, like the puppy that bares teeth, then

submits, rolls onto her back, responds to “here,”
“come,” a sudden semblance of sanity. Let there be

light again. O Lady of Midnight Hours, we mean
not to mock you, locked up in your dark room,

candles burning low, masks hanging on every nail,
on every word. Oh dear, dear Lady, teach us hope.

Say behind the one that reads tRUTH, our lips
can stop quivering, steady on long enough

to breathe, to believe: a change gonna come.


JS NAHANI is an ardent believer in the power of expression to heal and transform. With training in social work and expressive arts therapy, Jay’s business and practice of Creative Insights (creativeinsightswithjay.com) offers services in writing coaching, compassionate editing, embodied attunement, and group facilitation. Nahani’s work has appeared in Bellingham’s Poem Booth and in the anthologies: VoiceCatcher, Yours Truly, Pears Like Copper BuddhasI Want You to Know, The Haro, Kumquat Challenge, and For Love of Orcas. She serves as workshop coordinator for the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest Committee. 


Photo: “Masks” by Chris Zúniga