Illustration © Eric N. Peterson


They Told Us

not to wear masks
not to panic
it’s a hoax
everything is beautiful.
The numbers, they’re
And we became again
mere numbers
as we do in the collective
justice system, as we do
in any school, as we did when
we entered camps & gas chambers,
as we are now when we enter
PINs or SSNs or credit card numbers
to buy buy buy
not the masks, no
don’t buy those,
who needs those? Only
the sick. You don’t need them
to breathe the air—the fresh
and beautiful air, see? There’s
nothing wrong with the air—
born of nature, no, there’s no way
this virus
lives in the air (it’s too small,
just like our numbers). Only
surfaces. Just wash your hands,
when you touch them, or
just do nothing, just
go out to eat and tip your servers,
just wash your hands, but you,
you’re beautiful, a real
number, why would you
want to hide your face
behind a mask?


Samantha Kolber has received a Ruth Stone Poetry Prize and a Vermont Poetry Society prize, and her manuscript Jewel Tones was a semifinalist with the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry’s 2019 First Book Prize. Her manuscript Birth of a Daughter is due out Sept. 1 (Kelsay Books). She received her MFA from Goddard College and completed post-grad work at Pine Manor College’s Solstice MFA Program. She lives in Montpelier, Vermont, where she coordinates events and marketing for Bear Pond Books and is the Poetry Series Editor at Rootstock Publishing.

Eric N. Peterson is from Atlanta, Ga. He’s been drawing cartoons all his life. He leans towards the absurd, imaginative, and the surreal, as that’s where all the flavor is.