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Walking in the pines,

I find a message in a

beetle gallery

Etched on to a log,

in inscrutable scrimshaw.

There's a story there.

I can't translate these

Runes from a different language,

a filagree code.

These beetles and I,

we sit on separate branches

of the Tree of Life,

They chew on their branch,

I dangle my feet from mine.

Same idea, I guess.

Then, it dawns on me,

the message in the lacework:

"Don't call us boring."

Bark beetles don't fit

In seventeen syllables.

They need a whole book.

To keep a journal with you means that you can sit next to a river and you don't have to fish.

Or, you can sit in the park and not look like you're creepy.

Or, you can write a poem during class and pretend to be listening.

To keep a journal with you means that you always have someone to talk to when you don't want to talk to anyone.

At the beginning of the pandemic, masks were oddly prominent and proturberant, both on your face and in your face. Here are four journal entries from those early days.

The Gift

We were sitting in her garden, with the length of a grave between us. She had sewn 50 face masks as a gift to the community, and now she gave me my choice from the colorful lot. Each was sewn with scraps from her quilt-making. A bit of double-wedding-ring, a leftover log cabin, each reimagined into pleated contraptions to fit a person from bridge to chin. I chose a flowery blue one, a tiny baby quilt to protect me from bad dreams.

The Empowerment A mask allows a person to walk boldly into Safeway and purchase a Twinkie without risking shame or ridicule or self-righteous stares from people who know you; without having to pretend that the Twinkie is for a small child on the verge of a tantrum just offstage; without excusing the Twinkie as a science experiment or a theatre prop that no one will actually eat. There's no need for excuses. No one knows you are the person behind the mask. Is this what freedom feels like?

The Undecided I notice that some people (not you or I, of course) wear their masks under their chins. These must be the same people who aren't sure who they are going to vote for right before the election. They can't decide to conform or rebel, so they make up an excuse. They excuse their unwillingness to mask by saying, "I can't breathe." I wonder where they picked up that line.

The Reprise Back in her garden, the grave distance shrunk between us, we sit with our masks on. She's piecing together a new quilt, she tells me, for a grandchild due to arrive by Christmas. "Such a scary time to have a new baby," she says. "Corona would be a nice name for a child," I suggest. "Or perhaps Quarantine, like Constantine or Madeline." She says her kids refer to their unborn child as Fauci.

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