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
In Love With Science
You always surprise me with your sensible ways,
how my knowing more of your truths make them
seem obvious. Why didn’t we discover them sooner?
Why didn’t I think of that? And when we go deeper
into the charms and flavors of your quarks,
leptons, and gluons, we discover interactions
weak and strong, mirrors of other terrains. No end
to fathom your wonders and dark matter, clouded
no matter how far we go into other galaxies
or realms of the body we once called vestigial
and junk DNA. We cut out parts and learn with regret
we must make do without their secret methods.
I do not worship you like a god, nor have faith
in your revealing all. My understanding— partial,
mercurial— keeps me questioning. I tread among
the grandeur of your biological manifestations in earth
and air, follow the beauty of your flow charts, schema,
diagrams, and graphs that only suggest the wisdom
of your chemistry and history, shaped by changes
in temperature and pressure, evolved as we humans are.
I love the way you change your mind, reveal yourself
in layers like the dancer’s many veils. How happy
I am to be vaccinated by your knowledge against
my inclination to be dazzled and bamboozled.
Atop the dresser, wide open space
where the TV, VCR and DVD player
once lived, unused, unplugged.
Gaps in rows of books, open spaces
where spines of textbooks on psychology,
ossified techniques, uncracked, unread.
Open space that once held boxed manuscripts,
rejection slips, tax documents I’ve shredded,
burned, fire-embroidered to a lacy ash.
Closets emptied of clothes no longer worn,
sandals and boots passed on, foot bones
imprinted in the soles like fossils.
Trees shed last leaves, canopy opens to sky,
woods open, view deep, as into a chasm, where
downed trunks stick out like compound fractures.
Echoes in the empty hallway, hollow bones
of birds. The lightness, the lifting that comes
with letting go, a clean break.
Hot water from the kettle into a bowl,
cold on a winter morning. One finger
dipped says YES to yeast stirred in
with a wooden spoon. Sponge bubbles
and wafts a beery scent from the frothy
muck, thickened with flour and salt
and sugar, turned out, PLOP
on a wooden board. I sink the heels
of my hands down and away, and back
toward me, raise clouds of flour dust
that puff with every push and pull.
With olive oil, my favorite,
I coat a deep pot and drop the dough,
flip it over to grease both sides, cover
with a thin wet dishcloth.
And while it rises, I wrap both hands
around a mug of tea. Warm liquid
and warm pottery ease stiff fingers.
When the doubled dough is ready for a punch,
I plunge my fist into the middle, suck in
the fragrant burp of Sacchromyces cerevisiae.
More tea, a healing brew to tame the beast
that will beat this dough into shape,
smack and yank it into loaves, and roll out
sausage shapes that hands remember,
caress and stroke to smooth, then twist
into knots lined up on cookie sheets.
I sing with Pavarotti, read until the twists
are brown, tear them open, and eat them,
butter dripping. I lick my fingers,
and soles of slippery hands.
Thinking About Approval
I like to think I’d be deemed a Suppressive Person,
would suss out the domination and abuse, would
exit, speak out, and not look back. I like to think
I wouldn’t fear being called blasphemer or infidel.
Surely, I’d risk death to speak the truth. I could
have been Houdini and blown that cult.
I want to believe I would have said NO to Nazi
orders. I would have run, risked being shot.
I like to fool myself, protest I would have said
NO to experiments that hurt college students,
no matter what a professor’s research required.
Tell me I’m sane and smart, loved, appreciated,
and I will do whatever crazy thing to maintain
your esteem. I love the idea of being radical,
the black sheep of the family, the runaway,
but I’m the good child, the obedient, compliant
client, the one who recruits others to classes,
therapy, Landmark, 12-Step. I’m the one
who stayed sixteen years in a cult of one, did
what I had to for those random strokes of praise,
to hide doubt, to not be labeled insane, borderline,
bipolar. I revise history with paper, paint, words.
I change shape to fill today’s container.
© 2018 Joan Mazza
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