I have begun to explore some genealogy and have had my DNA tested. Now that I have dozens of questions to ask my ancestors, only one of them survives. I guess I’ll be writing more creative non-fiction. By reading and writing poetry, I come to terms with my obsessions. www.JoanMazza.com
The Scent of Memory 1
Two frozen eggrolls heated in the microwave--
scent of hot oil flies me to Coney Island,
August ‘64, Anthony holds my hand,
eager to please and buy all I care to gobble:
deep-fried eggroll, hot dog, Littleneck clams
shucked raw, devoured with lemon. All around
us, air thick with noise and voices, fragrance
of cotton candy and French fries, ignorance
of fat or weight. We tossed dimes to win
stuffed animals and stuffed ourselves silly
with greasy tasty treats. Still too young for beer.
I was sixteen, eighty-six pounds, my fear
set aside, drunk on abundant love and lust,
leaping over church rules to trust and touch.
The Scent of Memory 2
First whiff was the mask lowered over the face
for a tonsillectomy at the clinic
where her mother called herself a widow.
Fifteen, she dreamed she was on a gurney,
speeding through white hallways, woke up to sore
throat, substance like egg white in her panties.
Use of ether in the lab came with warnings
of flash fires leaping across the room.
She had beliefs about why its smell thrust
her into sickness ten years afterward.
What happens to girls passed out or under
anesthesia? Some will grasp the blow
to their ability to love or trust
affection. Ever after, they shun lust.
The Scent of Memory 14
You spend two hours deciding what to wear,
though next day you can’t wash smells from your hair:
wood floors soaked in beer, smoky, perfumed air,
din of drumbeat deafens while you swear.
You stand and wait to be asked to dance,
hope some guy will converse with you, though wish
none will. You want to go home, be alone,
say you hate to search for a man, to fish
a disco, singles scene, as if by chance
you’d meet your kind of man—a homebody,
guy who reads and cooks, who, like you, is ready
to stop the quest for a Perfect One. Not old,
not young, skin not decorated in ink,
who doesn’t smoke or lie or stink of drink.
[published in Mezzo Cammin, summer 2013]
The Scent of Memory 15
The biology department’s cold room
is in the basement, with deep tanks, water
shallow to hold frogs for classes. They’ll soon
be dissected by students on the border
of adolescence, expected to be
doctors and dentists by parents. The scent
of decomposition compares to the body
you will learn by heart. You can’t circumvent
this frog’s kiss if it’s to be the prince
that will guarantee your wealthy future.
Hold your breath, discard those that make you wince.
You think success means you will be secure
with ever-after smiles, unending love?
Any prince will stay the frog he’s made of.
The Scent of Memory 20
In August, tomatoes in rows of bowls
to ripen or to rot. I am waiting
for enough to make a sauce for canning
in quart Mason jars. The heat controls
the pressure gauge I watch while the fragrance
of late summer fills the house. It could be
1959, mother in her stance
of ready know-how while I snip string beans
or chop a mountain of yellow squash
for minestrone. Potatoes, onions,
basil, parsley from the garden, washed,
cut up. Healthy soups to give to someone
loved, who thanks me for this summer bounty
I hope to harvest, can, until I’m ninety.
© 2017 Joan Mazza
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