Bio Note: Although I’m a homebody and a hermit, this time of isolation seems endless. 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 Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, and The Nation. I live in rural central Virginia in the woods, alone, with one difficult cat named Sestina, and a stray cat named Sonnet, who won’t come in from the cold.
What We Left Behind
In Florida, I left the family room with a perfect wall unit in blond wood, with a mirrored back. I left the cabinet for the sewing machine because I’d never sew again. The grapefruit and tangerine trees at prolific maturity. The new owners chopped them down. A friend left a farm where she’d had an idyllic life of hard work, caring for goats, one calf, a pig, four dogs, growing most food for her daughter and herself, making art all morning while her child was in school, baking bread every day. She left oil paintings behind by the hundreds, cheese-making equipment, sold her cameras to pay for dental work. The owner’s son took over until it all went to hell without her skills or knowledge. Or steady effort. How easy she makes everything seem, even the letting go. People are fleeing Syria, Sudan, Somalia, leaving everything behind: cook pots and photos, favorite boots and bowls and family silver. Their arms are full of children and worries, not pets. They cannot carry beds or blankets on crowded boats across the Mediterranean. This fall, I’m planting flower bulbs after heavy rain: Fritillaria, tulips, hyacinth, crocus, adding to the thousands of daffodils and iris along the paths, the pond’s edge. My nails are full of dirt. In ten years, the magnolias will be majestic with huge white blooms, their scent heavy as you come down the driveway. The flowerbeds and ferns will flourish, in view from the screened porch. One day, I will leave all this behind. Not yet. Not yet.
Originally published in Italian Americana, Summer 2016
That Missed Connection
You were in the produce section of Whole Foods, sniffing cantaloupes and honeydews, not drooling. You placed only organic greens in your cart that already held onions, lean ground beef, cans of tomato puree. I knew you were Italian before I looked at the wagon’s contents—the way your hair is graying, darker near your neck. Not once did you pull out a phone. You were deep in concentration, as I am planning a dinner of imported pasta with meatballs in my homemade sauce. I didn’t tell you I can my own tomatoes, would not stoop to flirt. You didn’t see me. I didn’t see you look at me, though maybe you did as I pranced off to buy shrimp for scampi, which I will serve over linguine without you, while I listen to podcasts by Sam Harris, knowing you’ve come as far as I from Brooklyn. Like me, you smile at falling leaves and crow conversation, find the crescent nails of cats on carpets endearing. You sleep with your dog, are well read, love Broadway music, Rock ‘n’ Roll, the scents of wood smoke and baking bread. You favor Mozart over Wagner, and draw in ink so you can take your art with you anywhere. Anywhere but here. You don’t know me, won’t see me in Charlottesville again. Farewell, the one and only love of my overactive mind.
Originally published in Rat’s Ass Review, 2016
©2020 Joan Mazza
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