So bright tonight, woods glow,
as if some rare magic is near,
orchestra building to a swell,
followed by abrupt silence, pierced
by an animal’s anguished squeal,
sound that sends my heart thumping
though my dog doesn’t bark.
Imagination with a dash
of desperation for a happening,
Stultifying summer heat,
occasional cicada hum. All day
anticipation, not dread, for a shift
toward desire, propelled
by a passionate cause.
Circuitry fired up, tasting
like obsession. Sweat drips
from my chin. Off balance.
Drunk on moonbeams
I’m a willow today, pale, still green,
stirred easily to weeping, waving
flimsy limbs that rustle with happiness,
taste of air and spores flying. I strike
a pose, skirts twirling, fragrant
as green beans and artichokes waiting
for a Sunday crowd, sweet and sour
pasted on their faces while my leaves
flutter, reveal both sharp and rounded
edges. “Hey, Schwarzenegger,
what made you think you could keep
secrets, like my family, who lacked
your worldliness and education?”
Watching you, I’m all muscle, diabolical,
not diaphanous. Creatures live within
my niches and notches. I have been
barren, a desert. Not like you, Maria,
with your good face hiding the happiness
you deserve. “The rich have greater resources
to manage life’s upsets. They have servants.”
She knows the abyssal plain of satisfaction
runs flat, deep underwater, too cold to swim.
Where sunshine beats chilly rays, darkness
grows darker. This tree looks rooted, but can
walk away, as I did from today’s plans.
Spontaneity I once denied. I won’t spend hours
where I don’t want to be.
Joanie, dear. At nearly any moment
you can change direction, step off the line
drawn on your calendar or book of life.
Today is the foundation of the next
two years, first page of the book
of yesterday’s tomorrow. Inside
an opaque crystal ball, Voilà.
Nothing there but your imagination.
Trees walking, dragging their roots
like a train, dropping slender leaves,
not rose petals.
I’m not the one
who frets about pimples and cellulite, who fears
countries with enriched uranium. Whom to believe?
My hair is all roots, grayer with every cut. I don’t
go to spas, salons, fat farms. You won’t catch me
at a healer, reader, or any séance. I don’t care for
sports or stadiums full of shouting fans, can’t get
excited about winning a weekend in Las Vegas.
No video games or computer apps to track birthdays,
no lottery tickets with impossible fantasies. I don’t
send e-greetings but will craft you layered cards
with folded papers, ribbons, window openings
with photos. I buy stamps, pay extra postage
for the thickness of a plastic jewel at the center
of the paper iris. You’ll get it in the mail.
I’m not the one arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,
who cleans the inside of the dishwasher, irons sheets
and underwear. I won’t ask to borrow money,
tools, or your lawnmower. If I ask for a book, you know
you’ll get it back. I don’t make lists for Christmas gifts
or send Easter cards. When someone loses a love—
person or pet—I send a handwritten, handmade card.
I’m prepared for disasters that will likely never happen:
flu pandemic that will keep me avoiding contagion
for months at home with a year’s toilet paper, tissues,
pet food. Yup. That’s me washing my hands again,
remembering not to bite my nails, fire extinguisher
next to backup firewood. There’s a lot of heat in books.
After I read them, I can burn them if I have to.
Bodo’s Bagels Before Poetry Class
Today is a pot of beef barley soup. By the scent
of bagels and this cold gray light like jagged cliffs,
it could be New York in December, not early
October in Virginia. Time warp.
The brown tug of longing tells me,
“It never was the way it used to be!”*
In the parking lot, I get over myself by tasting
oaks that murmur autumn through clamped jaws,
toss acorns for passersby to catch. Everyone litters
the carpet with poppy and sesame seeds, add cups
and forks to Landfill Mountain.
It’s the cause of young patrons falling into bed
on third dates. “511!” is shouted when their food
is ready, and, “Take screaming children outside!”
The tossed salad of happiness will make you
weep for all you’ve lost. The screaming child’s
father lifts her to her feet. “Grow up!”
Not wanting to, he makes her taller than all.
Gentle devils storm the restaurant. You know
this is your destiny. You don’t have to run
a marathon or hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Chickie,
to have that transformative moment. Don’t say,
Oy vay. You’ll give me a kenahora!
The carpet says, “Call a cleaning crew.”
You order a dozen bagels to go.
All plain. You have all the seeds you need.
The barley soup chants your name.
*quote from Shann Palmer
Desire is a blast of fireworks, tie-dye colors fading more
each year. They wear thin, not like the end of your rope,
not down to your last thread, you are part of the normal flow
of a cycle all mammals know. Free of an infant, fertile again,
time to mix up the genes, find a new partner with novel skills
that make you sweat and quicken your breathing. Darker
skin, lighter hair and eyes, one who makes music, defies
norms, permits cries in the middle of lust.
She smells like wet sand. He loves to pet and be petted.
Each able to be alone. You didn’t lose your desire.
It’s time to transform passion’s myths. Not your cheatin’ heart.
That urge is your selfish genes, finding a way to get around,
stalking parks where parents push swings. When your mother
told you, Don’t do it! she meant, Do! Back then, she was drowning.
Lubrication proves attraction, not wisdom. White lace
and satin promises are best for coffin linings. Monotony
is insured by monogamy, gay or straight, a narrow loop
of landscape without scent or color. Long married, you sleep
in separate rooms, yours pristine, and compete for novel excuses
to avoid touching, sharing a bed, if only for a few minutes.
How stable you seem, bathed in serotonin. Your cold passions
are ice cream and skiing, the spark never ignited except
with someone new and forbidden. Don’t think of it
brings the object into focus, obsession you can’t shake.
Au revoir! You want fireworks in color, without the lingering
burn, the scar, the scent of gunpowder hanging on.
© Joan Mazza
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes a daily poem.