James Morehead

You shared a photo last Halloween,
shrouded in a swirl of spirit fog,
leather gloves stretched up and
tucked into a blue velvet overcoat,
cut high to shield your neck in folds,
a bowler hat in rich black covering
your blond hair, tinted blood red,
perhaps flowing out of the frame
or tied back, filling the rounded crown.

It is the mask I can’t shake.
Eerie—with spectacles for eyes and
a beak formed from leather designed
to terrify, or perhaps dispel miasma;
an image of you so real I imagine
the beak filled with dried flowers,
scented to discourage
plague-spreading smells.

I wonder now, staring at the photo months later,
trying to unravel what is costume, what is real:
Did you become the plague doctor
for just one night? Or have you been
waiting in the shadows for death to return?

James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, California. James has published two collections: “canvas” and “portraits of red and gray”, and he hosts the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast. James’ poem “tethered” was transformed into an award-winning animated short film and “gallery” was set to music for baritone and piano. His poems have appeared in multiple publications.