KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
Micro-Fiction: 412 words


by Joanna White

They will put a mask over your face, my parents said, and you will sleep and then you will wake up and all will be fine.

It wasn’t. I thought the princess masks my sister and I wore at Halloween would appear in the theater with the blazing lights. (So dervishly we twirled around our living room, tin foil wands waving, white night gowns spinning.) But arms locked down cannot weave magic to stop the hissing mask, color of onyx, forced over nose and mouth, eyes round as moons. They got it so wrong.

We were only children when we wandered on campus one day, Berkeley in the sixties—bongos pounding, stirring something within us. Gas-masked men lobbed a canister into the throng; we clutched our peppered eyes. Sweeping us up, our parents fled to the modern art museum, where we twisted up walkways of cantilevered concrete, ogled jagged sculptures.

Marine life undulates. To see jewel tones: affix a window to your face, fasten mouth to scuba tube. But one dip below water line and lungs fill. I only see fish as shadows from above.

I took my children to a party. Painted mask mouth frozen, the clown blew balloons into dachshunds, tying them with a squinch, squeaking them on hair of squealing girls. What were the party moms thinking?

Wind whips frosted whorls, imprinting lacy doilies on my cheeks. I take refuge in the drugstore, fingering ski masks on display by the door. A small boy pulls one over his tufted hair, face only peepholes. I drop the one I am holding.

Unraveling the plastic cord from the overhead compartment, the flight attendant places the mask over nose and mouth. I never fly again.

This month, I go for a pre-surgery visit with the anesthesiologist. She jaunts in, honey ponytail bobbing. I hear you are afraid of us, she laughs. I divulge nothing. We might have to use this mask, she warns, stepping closer. Gleaming plastic brushes my skin and my sob hiccups out. She locks her eyes into mine. Can you hold it? I take it between thumb and finger. Can you bring it your face? I shake my head, stamping it into the chair like a child making potato prints. Take it home and put it under your pillow, she says. I take it home and get out paint. Pressing the mask’s rim into globby crimson, I lift it to paper, pocking the page with its lipstick kiss.

Joanna White
Issue 2, Winter 2015

After performing with a poet, music professor Joanna White returned to an early love of creative writing and now studies poetry with Robert Fanning and Jeffrey Bean. She has works appearing or forthcoming in The Examined Life Journal, Ars Medica, Pulse, Grey Sparrow Journal, Milo Review, Flare, Chest Journal, Open Palm Print, Flute View, Central Review, and Minerva Rising Literary Journal.

She was chosen as a finalist by both Snow Jewel and Naugatuck River Review in their poetry contests.

Ms. White lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan with her husband and has a daughter and son in college.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Perception, in which Joanna White briefly discusses the “circle of arts” process associated with the creation of her poem, “Perspectives,“ in Minerva Rising (1 August 2014)

Perspectives, a concrete poem by Joanna White in Minerva Rising (August 2014)

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