Bio Note: Although I’m a homebody and a hermit, this time of isolation seems both endless and delicious. I’ve used this great pause to write more and to read books again, as well as submit more of my work. My poetry has appeared in Slipstream, Italian Americana, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, and The Nation. I live in rural central Virginia in the woods. I’m still making bread and soup and allowed myself a trip to VMFA in Richmond. Everyone wore masks.
Stare into smoke and you can see angels. They hide in mirrors, too, mourning moonless nights when touch pleasures are not theirs. They gaze into roses glittering among faces black with oblivion, draw blood to the surface. Angels sleep in rain gutters padded with leaves. In tall reeds, they swim, eating tinsel, wings spangled by moonlight. They welcome the snake’s embrace. Angels are burning to strip you down. They hold broken hearts smoldering in old hotels.
Originally published in Red Owl Magazine, Fall 2004
Thirty years bent to a sewing machine in a row in a shop without air-conditioning, my mother sat side by side with other Italian women, daughters of immigrants, no high school diplomas. They made pastel party dresses in taffeta, crepe, chiffon for girls like me, for proms, for sweet sixteens. The shopwomen ate spinach omelets, brought coffee in a silvered thermos, shared the news of sales: artichokes: five for a dollar, chicken: twenty-nine cents a pound, sent their children to college. No lunches out. My mother’s income, paid by the piece, was less than the minimum wage I earned selling candy at the movie theater and checking out groceries. I read Robert Pinsky’s poem “Shirt,” his details of the Triangle Factory fire about those women whose only escape was jumping out the window. How many times my mother told that sweatshop story. “Those poor girls were burned beyond recognition!” as if she’d been there in the flames, although she wasn’t born yet. If my mother were here now, I’d read her that poem. And this one.
Originally published in Babel Fruit Journal, Fall 2009
©2021 Joan Mazza
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL