How to Make a No-Sew Coronavirus Mask From a Poem*

  1. After you’ve read this poem, place it
    on your kitchen table
  2. From the top of the poem, fold down a flap of your fear;
    from the bottom, a flap of hope.
  3. Turn this poem over and smooth it tenderly
    with the side of your hand. You will
    no longer be able to read
    this poem. Trust it.
  4. Feed an elastic hairband over each end of this poem
    the way you once gathered the strands
    of your daughter’s ponytail.
  5. Now fold in both ends of the poem
    until they overlap like waves
    on the bay.
  6. Turn over the poem and plump
    the pleats.
  7. Secure the elastic hairbands of this poem
    around the shells of your ears.
  8. Wear this poem as if your life
    depended on it.

*Note to User:

This poem is not guaranteed to save you or the world.
However, evidence suggests that a poem may help you
get through one more day.


Click here to read Wendy Drexler on the origin of the poem.


Image: “how to make a paper airplane” by woodleywonderworks, licensed under CC 2.0

Wendy Drexler: I’d been trying to follow the instructions circulating online for how to make a no-sew coronavirus mask. A friend had sent me a video that was quite clear and clever, with soft, relaxing background music, and I loved the origami-like quality of folding a bandana and turning and folding it again and again, and instead of a dove emerging like magic, it was a mask. That gave me the idea of conflating the making of a poem with the actual steps for making the mask. This is probably the first time I’ve written a poem with a game plan, though the poem needed some folding and turning of its own. Underneath the poem may be Jacques Prevert’s wonderful “To Paint the Portrait of a Bird” (“first paint a cage with an open door”). I enjoy the suspension of belief required for a poem like Prevert’s, with its high-wire act of ars poetica and metacognitive wink.

Wendy Drexler
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