Bio Note: I have worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and I am the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). My poetry has appeared in Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner (forthcoming), and The Nation. I live in rural central Virginia, where I write a poem every day and am working on a memoir. www.JoanMazza.com
By the time I’m eighty, I will have learned that lesson I keep having to learn again, how diving into the deep waters of friendship before I’ve tested with a toe will get me the grit of disappointment for my efforts. A new year has begun, with a promise to develop new writing habits in the gift of uninterrupted time in a silent space, where I can catch stories that float in on the ethers, available to anyone who wants to record them. By this time next year, I will have wrought the design I see now through a fuzzy veil. I will have broken through a wall I built before my first decade ended. I will have come out the other side where the light beams bright and diffuses with the scent of lemons.
Long Shadows at Dawn
What looks like the silhouette of a cityscape is the shadow of a carrier ship at sea, its shadow projected long and tall by the spotlight of a low winter sun. At dawn, the sun behind me, my shadow too is long and tall, slender as I hope to be again, though never lanky or athletic. I’m fasting every day. One meal keeps me nourished while I eat the years of words I might take back, surprised by what I’ve said. I’m swallowing the blurts I didn’t hold in, eating hurts I’ve certainly inflicted. This decade’s nearly over, a time for reflecting on my shadow. To fast is to discover obsessions, pathways of the mind—a maze, a labyrinth of tunnels. Where is that tasty morsel of wisdom among my many blunders? My long shadow surfaces as hungers.
I have made the executive decision to leave my Christmas tree up year round because it makes me happy. Add it to the list of things my kids can discuss with their therapists when they get older. —Erika Orloff She leaves the Lenox bowl with holly at its center within reach for lunch salads every day, wears her fleece slippers all year. Once she swore to abstain from buying books, missed their arrivals like gifts, and so resumed the extravagance. Naps are a treasure she hands herself, followed by the glee in waking sober and alert, permission to experiment for hours with acrylics, watercolors, textured papers, discovering her own artistic signature. Silence makes her happy—no bad news blaring on repeat, no chatter of the well-intentioned friend who likes rap, strobe lights, intense digging into three decades’ old family strife. She listens to the hum of the heater, notes the refrigerator’s cycles with its crash of ice cubes. How sweet to pass on her collection of turtles to others, to see the sudden grin when someone says, I love that bowl, and she responds, Take it! She’s still buying leather-bound notebooks, lets them collect. They make her happy, remind her she’s a writer, even though she composes at a laptop. The scent of bean soup simmering though the freezer is full, heat from the wood stove though she isn’t cold. Drapes open instead of closed against the winter. She revels in the angularities of trees, their costumes changing with the seasons.
©2020 Joan Mazza
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