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Thursday, April 09, 2020


by Ed Goodell 

When I stare at your masked mouth
I think of the girls
I’d speak with on the phone
That hung from the dining-room wall
of my parents’ home.

I’m fifteen, maybe sixteen,
Pacing the herringbone floor,
Tangled up in that short coiled cord
Of youth. Not seeing mouths,
I can barely hear their words.

You have to see it to believe it,
And words without tongues
To heaven never go. Maybe
They mean it, maybe they don’t  
When they whisper, “Eddy, my baby.”

This I’ve learned: Something of the lips  
Lends substance to utterance
And unmouthed words lack teeth.
Then and now, in these viral times,
We must see the words we speak.

Day is done. Let us slip inside
Our tender quarantine.
We’ll wash our hands, remove our masks
—Don’t touch! One meter apart!—
Words, mouth, love are all I ask.

Ed Goodell is a teacher of English and journalism at Jakarta Intercultural School in Indonesia. He is sheltered at home with his son, Yohanes, and wife, Irma D. Peña, to whom this poem is dedicated.