ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


New Poems by Joan Mazza


A Kind of Time Travel

Housekeeping comes into my hospital room, mops
the floor under my bed. My mother floats in on the scent
of bleach. Her words echo and repeat all day.

Did you pee? Did you wipe? Did you have a BM?
Let me see it. Sit there until you go. You have to eat.
You need your nutrition to get better. Just eat it.
Here’s some water. Try to sleep. Watch out for ice,
or you’ll break you leg. Don’t wear those shoes.
Be careful. Don’t rush.

I can’t move out, can’t tell anyone to take a hike. They’re
nice. I’m not. Oh, no. I won’t cry. I can always defy.
You can hear the calendar pages flip back into the past
when Mom said I’d grow up and be fine, fine.
I’ll be okay, I say. I’ll get through this. I’m not hungry.
Look, Ma. Watch me hop with my new walker.



Sorting Old Clothes

In the closet, collecting dust, they hang askew
since I moved here seven years ago:
power suits and dressy dresses with no occasion.
What would be in style for a wedding, party,
or holiday is beyond my interest inventory.

Too many t-shirts, socks, and leotards for yoga
when joints were strong and pliable, from years
when towels and sweatbands matched every workout
outfit. Here’s the slinky wrap-around skirt
and top for greeting lovers for hot tub dates,

plunging neckline tops from when I was thinner,
younger, didn’t need a bra. And one last
white lab coat from microbiology, like new.
Into plastic bags they go for a stranger’s delight
or puzzlement at my facets and grooves.

Glut of clothing halved, five bags to give away
make space for something I don’t need or want.
A little air around what’s left to let me breathe in
some role or skill I haven’t yet tried on. Look.
My closet’s open, nearly empty.



Glose: In the Synapse

When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.
                                                            —Adrienne Rich
                        from “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”

How to explain how my mind works to another?
The jumps in thought from what’s present
in my visual field— wooden table, tree stump—
to a memory of a man chopping wood,
more than one: ex-husband, last lover.
A tug— question that arises every time.
Who were the significant partners, the manly
men, who chopped and carved, could haul
and carry, who preferred emotional crime?
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time

when we were outdoors, camping. We pitched
a tent, ate under trees, a fire pit of rock,
steaks on a fold-up grill. We prowled woods
in state parks. A broken chimney, we looked
for the household’s dump. Leather shoes, buckle,
bottle embossed, “Lydia E. Pinkham.” Ever
greedy for more, collection to display,
then give away. Wander off the path, far from home,
trust the man to get us back, be clever.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever

searching, going outward. The classic quest
of humans everywhere, beyond horizons
of space and time, and into memories by leaps.
This slant of light, shadows of hay bales,
as if farm life were romantic, easy,
not the labor of planting, of leaning
into a shovel, sweating in the sun.
Who wouldn’t want to look pretty, sip tea
in the shade, someone else cooking, weeding?
I could say those mountains have a meaning,

I could see their longevity, how they stand
with pride or call it arrogance splashed
against the sky. My mind flies to thoughts
of ultralights, eagles and their vision,
what makes their meals an easy catch
and from that to metaphors of victim, prey,
and saviors of all types. Recurrent thoughts
seem to always turn on this: who holds
power? Who rebels? What do rules weigh?
But further than that I could not say.


Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. Author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Slipstream, 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.

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