Bio Note: I’m am reveling in being a hermit, something I’ve always aspired to be. I’ve used this great pause to write more and to read books again, as well as submit more of my work, and make cards. My poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Juke Joint, The Comstock Review (forthcoming), and The Nation. I live in rural central Virginia in the woods, where the ticks and chiggers wait to feast on me, and I stay inside making bread and soup.
What I wonder now is why my father registered for the class— the only one I know he took, his years of schooling over, incomplete. What did he hope to learn of people when he disliked everyone? Estranged from his siblings, without friends, he lived on an island offshore from family, neighborhood, coworkers. I try to imagine him studying this text by Klara Roman, its explanations of loops and spacing, pressure and direction, to enter that gateway to reveal someone’s true nature and unconscious, the secret, sacred heart of someone he loved. Who? He showed me his three-page autobiography in the careful penmanship I knew so well. In this document showcasing his life’s highlights, he lists the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Grumman, his stamp collection. He omits his wife and daughters, proving he never attended to our style or rhythms, our speed or alignment. Did he notice the height or width of our characters? Pressure of our pens? Years later, he sent back my letters, red ink circling my every error.
Originally published in Pinyon Review, June 2016
My Father’s Work
Mechanical draftsman, he liked to say, though he never finished night college. He drew screws and pipes that showed the way for plumbers, men with other knowledge whose parents also arrived in steerage. He trudged to Sheepshead Bay station to save bus fare, wrapped newspapers around his legs under suit pants in cold weather. A slave to his family, he would have said. Laid-off when government contracts folded, he stalked offices where a tall suit might not scoff at a little man without a job. He hawked his skills and walked Manhattan’s dirty streets, balked at Friday dinners without meat.
Originally published in Italian Americana, Spring 2020
My father’s dead more than thirty years, a sudden exit by his hand, left a mess for his daughters to untangle. I confess I cleaned spilled blood and brains, without tears as I mopped the gore. What would happen to my mother now, so sick she couldn’t make a cup of tea? His final act wouldn’t let me see him as better than some dragon breathing fire on my youthful pleasure. But there was a moment in the story when he opened, told me he was sorry, and shared his woe and a bit of treasure. That window closed, a plot point I erase. In memoir, we choose details we will trace.
Originally published in The Literary Nest, June, 2020
©2022 Joan Mazza
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