Suddenly the internet is teeming with sewing patterns, and everyone is hunting through their closets for an old cotton or poplin shirt that might be cut and sewn into face masks. The most common model is one that starts with a rectangle you fold in half then pleat and pleat again in small sections; two garter straps or pony tail holders are added for fastening around each ear. Another has a seam running down the middle. The fabric's cut so it forms a slight peak in front, reminiscent of plague doctors' bird-beak masks in the 1300s. Like death's acolytes they glided through streets infested with bubonic plague—aroma of ambergris or mint, lavender and herbs stuffed into the protrusion, for tempering the stench of rotting bodies piled in churchyards. Nose, mouth, and chin are covered; and the eyes? The eyes, not hard to read above the mask-edge as now, when we venture out to get medicine or food: the eyes, blurring with the hurt, the hope, the effort to hold the breath then just breathe.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) was recently appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022). She is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.