An Observation from 300 Hours on Zoom
Faces fixed in separate
boxes, lips stiff,
eyes flat with fatigue,
I am so often smiling.
Is it flippant, this smile, brightened
by sunshine from my ocean-facing window,
reflected in the eyes of my forever partner,
while the great pandemic of 2020
tightens the visage of the lonely,
exposed, homeless? Or do I assume
my mother’s smile, smoothing
a safe veneer over rough grain?
Duchenne, the French scientist,
could tell the difference, two muscles
vital to a genuine smile
are only triggered by joy.
The liquid warmth of my smile
travels down my lungs and heart,
the upward curl of lips begins
a self-embrace, satisfies a hunger
to hold moments closely—my smile a cradle
for rocking love into memory,
where everything touches everything
and nothing is boxed in.
Joanne Durham is a retired educator living on the North Carolina coast. Her chapbook, On Shifting Shoals, is being published by Kelsay Books (2022). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry East, Third Wednesday, Rise-Up Review, Juniper Poetry Journal and other journals. Please see https://www.joannedurham.com/ for more about her background, publications and awards.