Behind the Mask

A collection of poems by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

The Vain Hope of Ascending to Heaven Upon Clouds of Toilet Paper

A Brief Discourse in Doggerel Verse Upon the False Hopes and Vanities of Hoarding in Which it is Hoped that Young and Old Will Suffer Themselves to be Wisely Instructed Upon Certain Errors and Perils. Amen.

We mourn the passing of poor Joe Draper
Crushed by falling cases of toilet paper

And though poor Joe had fever, ‘flu, and gout,
It was the toilet paper that wiped him out

Isolated from the Book Shop for Four Months
(But maybe not much longer…)

A Barnes & Noble is a happy place
Where my book budget goes to lose itself
In the poetry section first, and then
To the music by way of the magazines

A Barnes & Noble is that happy place
Where my weary soul goes to find itself –
And that errant budget – among the shelves
Of civilization in a quiet room

Then coffee and croissants (and a six-foot space!)
Yes, Barnes & Noble is my happy place

Where are the Back-to-School Ads?

The tumult in the heart
Keeps asking questions

-Elizabeth Bishop, “Four Poems: I / Conversation”

Where are the summer’s-end back-to-school ads?
No dancing pencils or princess backpacks
No brand-new notebooks with bright plastic tabs
No staplers, glue, file folders, paper, or pens

No laughing children in jeans and tops and tees
No ‘way-cool sneaks or socks or flippy skirts
No fashion purses, no funny new hats
No Disney images of hallway fun

There is no merriment this new school year
Only chemicals and distancing
and fear

God Behind the Mask

Perceiving God in someone else’s smile
Is awkward even in the best of times
But now we only see a dear friend’s eyes


In fresh new ways – surprises every day

We notice masks because we failed to see
The givenness of daily saints obscured
Only by easy familiarity
Inattention on the road to Emmaus

Perceiving God in someone else’s eyes –
Maybe it’s easier now

He was Reading a Kristin Hannah Novel

My pharmacist died today. The CV.
Two weeks ago we were laughing about books
About each other, our reading habits
My Yevtushenko, his Kristin Hannah

I mocked his chick-lit; he mocked my Russians
He said I would really like Winter Garden
Because in it I could visit Saint Petersburg
Which is every reader’s dream

A pharmacist and friend – he died today
I must go and find Winter Garden

A Funeral Home Visitation

Conversations with people we don’t remember
With people whose names we don’t remember
About long-ago events we don’t remember
Concluding with, “He’s in a better place”

And in that better place he will not need
To try to match faces with memories
Or sign the book with all the family names
As scratchings with the funeral home’s cheap pen

Conversations with people we don’t remember:
A metaphor for our own lives unlived

A Tyburn Tree1 in Diebus Nostris

This summer seems to be a Tyburn Tree
Everything upright connects to crossing beams
Whose angles cancel every aspiration
In a suspension of time, of thought, of hope

This summer seems to be a Tyburn Tree
Everything horizontal paused in place
Resting upon the uprights locked in theirs
In a suspension of all purposes

This summer seems to be a Tyburn Tree
Where our uncertainties together hang

  1. Scaffold on which the criminals of London were hung for over 500 years

Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ Mask
Our faces adorned in baptismal white
We carefully approach the Altar of God
Touching each pew because the mask-y blight
Befogs one’s spectacles – awkward and odd

Because his eyeglasses are but a smear
Each obstacle thus is undetectable
The worshipper indeed approaches in fear
Each confusing visual dialectical

And then…

He falls in clumsiness undelectable
And makes himself an unholy spectacle!

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