Amanda Grace Shu’s “Ledger of Doubts, Unmasked” & John Bonanni’s “Leaving the House”

Ledger of Doubts, Unmasked

by Amanda Grace Shu

At CVS, a woman toes the tape line
marking a safe six feet from where I stand.
She stares at me slantwise, suspicious,
and turns away when I meet her gaze.

Mom chats with the grocery checkout girl,
thanking her for her service. I reach out
for the bag of groceries. She hands it over
and walks away to speak to her supervisor.

At Super 88, all the cashiers wear masks
weeks before the white store workers do.
I wonder whom they’re meant to protect,
whom they’re trying to appease.

Internet comments from the scared and angry,
masked by anonymity:  Enjoy your bat soup.
Why would anyone want to live in China.
If Trump dropped a nuke on them, I’m not saying I’d
vote for him…

Others try to defend us, or those they deem
just as American as the rest of us. I think of my grandmother,
herded into an internment camp so white people
could feel safer. I think of my grandfather, how he wore
a button that said I’m Chinese, not Japanese, because white people
couldn’t tell the difference. I think of how
when masks cover our noses and mouths,
no one sees a smile—
                                    only the tilt
of our inscrutable, black eyes.

Writing Prompt:
Write about the masks that we wear and what lies beneath them. Why do we mask ourselves, literally and metaphorically? What advantages and disadvantages of wearing a mask?

Leaving the house

by John Bonanni

Apply chapstick beforehand. Do not
bring chapstick with you. Layer t-shirts.
Cover with a hoodie. Do not wear knits. Wear cotton.
Cotton can be washed. Denim can be washed.
Wear jeans which can be washed. Place spray
hand sanitizer in pocket. Fold the
bandana into a triangle. Place bandana
neatly around your neck. Tie in a knot. Do I look
COVID cute? Choose your gloves. Preferably plastic gloves. Dish
gloves, surgical gloves disposable gloves. Knit
gloves if necessary. The higher the sock, the better the
chance of survival. Walk to garage. Tie shoes in garage.
Drive. Arrive at grocery store. Pull your own
disinfectant wipe for everything you will touch.
Wipe the grocery cart wipe the handles wipe the
milk, the box of frozen veggie burgers, the egg carton,
the bag of rice. Wipe canned goods. Wipe it all. Quickly throw
it into your cart. Avoid every body until you get to the register.
You might forget to pay. This is normal.
Don’t use your gloved hands to touch anything,
only the disinfectant wipe. Open car door
with disinfectant wipe. Return home. Look
into mailbox. Disinfect the mail before
carrying it into the home. Untie your shoes in the garage
while disinfecting the mail while disinfecting the keys
while disinfecting the doorknob while mopping the floor while
de-clothe all your clothes you are naked you are

Writing Prompt:
Think of a time when you’ve undergone a life transition, one where you had to internalize new instructions in order to move through it. Write the list of instructions, addressed to yourself, to make them external and visible again.

Amanda Grace Shu

Amanda Grace Shu is a poet and speculative fiction writer from Massachusetts. She is a graduate of the 2014 and 2015 Alpha Young Writers’ Workshop and the 2013 Juniper Institute for Young Writers. Her fiction has been published in Daily Science Fiction, while her poetry has been featured in Mass Poetry’s Poetry on the T Project, and her poem “Minidoka to Austin” was published in the American Journal of Poetry in January 2020. She also prowls the internet on her website,, and as amatalefay on Tumblr and Archive of Our Own. She stands in solidarity with all those protesting racially motivated police brutality and affirms that Black Lives Matter.

John Bonanni

John Bonanni

A Pushcart and Best New Poets nominee, John Bonanni serves as founding editor for the Cape Cod Poetry Review. He is the recipient of a scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, grants from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and a residency from AS220 in Providence, RI. His poems have appeared in CutBank, North American Review, Verse Daily, Seattle Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hobart, Washington Square Review, and Prairie Schooner, and his literary criticism has appeared in Rain Taxi, DIAGRAM, Tupelo Quarterly, and Kenyon Review.