I’m retired from my work as a microbiologist and later as a psychotherapist. I love the freedom to do as I please, to create handmade one-of-a-kind cards or sew quilts, or work on poetry, dipping in and out of it like a tern running along the shore. By reading and writing poetry, I come to terms with my obsessions. Many of my poems are an intersection of my history and today’s events. www.JoanMazza.com
NOTE: In the summer of 1998, I went on a 14-day Thompson active-walking safari to Tanzania. The trip changed me in many ways. I’d been writing prose up until then, but I returned a poet. I’ve been writing mostly poetry since. Even now, I can’t read this poem aloud without choking up.
Submerged in my sleeping bag, I try to rest.
Too cold, then too hot.
I remember the day of Thompson gazelles
Leaping across the path while we walked.
I listen for the sound of jackals.
The sliver of dark moon is
behind the mountain.
Through the tent screen, I am dazzled
by the swirl of Milky Way, highlighting
the Southern Cross.
Brighter still is the lingering
image of the Hadzabe in huts
on top the rocky slope I needed help to climb.
The safari guide cautioned us to give them nothing.
The doctor in our group said,
"The three little boys will not live
to see adolescence." The baby cried.
The boy with distended stomach squinted
at us through runny eyes, staring at our cameras,
earrings, field guides, boots,
the magic of a cigarette lighter.
The sun rises above the Soda Lake
And I remember how much colder
it was on the mountain.
No beds or blankets.
Outside our tents,
Two Mangati boys graze cows,
goats, donkeys past us.
Their dogs bark.
At dusk, they will return with their cattle,
stopping as they have each day to peer
at the Land Rovers and camp stoves.
They ask for water and medicine.
We give neither.
First published in Möbius, 1999.
© 2018 Joan Mazza
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