July 2014 Sestinas
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. She is the author of six books of self-help psychology, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Slipstream, Mobïus, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Buddhist Poetry Review, and The Nation. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art.
Every day, another cause for public outcry,
though nothing to do with being on your own.
You watch the rise and setting of the sun,
resolve to love the weather, even rain.
Something new awaits to be discovered, a side
of yourself you still don’t know, much ado
about your changing moods. It’s not a tornado
swirling, which would make you cry and cry.
You know control comes from the inside.
Because you’re mature, if not stoic, you take own-
ership of your emotions, know how to brain-
storm. You look toward spring. You’re the person
you were meant to be, at liberty to jettison
old images, that hot woman made solely of libido,
the smiling one who passed for brain-
dead, airhead, bimbo. It was only mimicry,
striving to prove you didn’t have to be alone.
Would you have longed for the seaside
had it offered you the solitude where you reside?
In a raucous, Italian family, it was treason
to want move away, to live on your own,
single, without children. Watch morning dew
sparkle on the first daffodils. You’re no cry
baby. You’ve given thoughts their rightful reign,
and you write them down, hail or snow or rain.
Notebooks fill up, always at your bedside,
offering a better release than a good old cry.
You love and trust the change of seasons,
enjoy lessons from blunders you can’t undo.
You survived with helpful friends, no breakdown.
Your credit’s good, and you don’t need a loan,
having resolved not to forego legumes or grains.
How lucky you’ll never have to wear a tuxedo
or strive to be well-to-do. You’re not beside
yourself, won’t listen to a priest or parson.
Attentive to your pets, you know each one’s cry.
Who can be reined in? Yourself? A daughter? Son?
Your own thoughts and feelings rattling inside
are not overdue. Only you can make you cry.
The experts tells us every time we sleep
we dream, sometimes seven dreams
in one night. In this recurrent story
we still don’t know the ending, unlike reruns
of sitcoms. Again we’re being chased
by something as we head for home.
In this place, although the house feels like home
it isn’t one I’ve ever lived in. Too sleepy
or confused to think to turn to see who’s chasing
me or turn to ask why. If I knew it was a dream,
I’d face the monster instead of continuing to run.
The dream returns, only a slightly different story
from last time. In my latest one, a three-storey
building I’ve never seen is now my home.
How many rooms to discover as I run
from something scary, unknown. I fear sleep
some nights, knowing this is a recurrent dream.
In search of meaning, what image chases?
Why am I afraid? What or who is chasing?
I swear, I’m chased! I can’t comprehend the story
that keeps repeating, telling me in dreams
what I can’t control. If this is home
then why aren’t nights filled with peaceful sleep?
What am I afraid of, what am I running
from in waking life? So far, I’ve had a good run,
no huge regrets, not much left to chase
after. My life story would put others to sleep.
But in imagination I have other stories.
In this last quarter of my life, I’m home,
no longer driving without brakes in dreams.
I would have liked a fast and sexy dream
like those I used to have, where I could run
up against a man for that sweet spasm. I’m home!
was the ending of a delicious chase
and the outcome of every old-fashioned story.
Afterward, we’d snuggle close and fall asleep.
Yet the dream returns unbidden, same story
in my old home, a blurred and sleepy
re-run of the dash. Still, I wake chaste.
Sestina for Anthony
My fantasies of men must have started as a child,
watching those old movies on TV
rather than westerns with guns,
where heroes smoked cigarettes
and drank whiskey before guzzling beer.
Did I notice those guys never married?
A sixties’ girl, I thought I’d be married
some day, have at least one child,
maybe two or three. That was before beer
became a macho brew. TV
was only entertainment. Cigarettes
didn’t tempt, as they did others, and guns
didn’t faze me. Anthony introduced me to guns,
taught me to respect them, how to shoot. Married,
I never objected to his collection or his cigarettes.
Man of the house, he seemed more a child,
and I, his mother. We watched “Laugh-In” on TV,
phone off the hook, and I took sips of his cold beer.
Hard to say when I knew his whiskey and beer
were his committed lovers, more than guns,
or his draw to Gunsmoke, or war movies on TV.
We talked less. Where was the boy I married?
I cooked and sewed, thought less about having a child.
I did it all, even rolled his cigarettes.
When did people start to hate smoke, to know cigarettes
were more deadly than wine or beer?
I knew, no way would I have a child
with a man who tasted like ashes, kissed guns,
and thought he got two votes when married.
He should have watched the news on TV.
He might have found a changed world. TV
ads showed women working, questioned cigarettes.
He claimed he wanted to stay married,
but said he wouldn’t change for me, wouldn’t give up his beer,
or go to counseling. Every day, he wore a gun,
decreed what I could do, as if I were his child.
My ex-husband married his beer,
was faithful to his loves: guns and cigarettes.
He never had a child, and died in front of his television.