Three Poems by Joan Mazza

Waiting for the Doctor

Always late, he expected me to wait,
ready for the session’s start,
for me to take off my shoes,
lie down, not to complain or be angry
with him for keeping me waiting

for thirty or forty minutes, an hour,
sometimes two. I always arrive
early, never wanted to keep others
waiting for me. I don’t like
to feel rushed, prefer to allow time

for traffic, trouble, unexpected delays.
I waited in my car outside his house,
counted minutes. In the basement
of his house, I waited, in an area designed
for waiting, mesmerized by three giant

goldfish swimming in his giant tank.
If I was late, I lost that session’s time.
How long is too long to wait for someone
when you have an appointment? What
if he misses your scheduled time or

doesn’t show? If he never offers to
makeup time, he’s teaching you:
Your time doesn’t count. He’s the doctor.
He had important things that made
him late. I had a husband and a dog

waiting for me at home. I’d worked
a full day, had driven forty minutes,
hadn’t made or eaten dinner. I waited.
In charge, my analyst, my God decreed,
You have nothing to be angry about.

*

Tailored, Emerald Green

After Microbiology all day in Miami,
into the night I cut and sewed, hand-
stitched bound buttonholes, covered
buttons, lined the jacket in the same bold
silky fabric as the turtleneck blouse,

a suit that fit me loose enough to flow,
cuffs swaying with my walk, bright green
as the forest I longed for all those years
toiling in Florida. I waltz into my session
aglow, proud of my effort and outcome,
so well completed after a long hiatus
from my sewing machine.

My psychiatrist scowls at my twirl.
Why are you wearing that?
I made it. My voice shakes.
You’re all covered up! It’s a tent!

And so we spend another session
on his interpretation, his certainty
of my need to hide my body
up to my chin, my wearing pants,
not skirts. Proof of my hang-ups
and fears, proof of how much
more therapy I need with him.

*

What did you learn from your therapist?

All my friends were psychopaths
as were the men I dated, no matter if
I met them in church or bars. I was easily

manipulated into paying half, cooking
for men who wouldn’t take me out, only
wanted to get laid. (Didn’t I want sex too?)

Look how gullible and trusting I was
of all the wrong people. How grateful
I should be for his guidance, for teaching

to set limits, to say no, but not to him. When
I protested when he was two hours late
for a session, hours late for dinner, when

he asked to borrow money, when he mocked
my hand-tailored clothes, my haircut, he said,
You have no reason to be angry.

Too gullible and trusting of all the wrong
people, people took advantage. Couldn’t
I see who was being helpful?

*

Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self. Her poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review (forthcoming), Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She stays safely isolated in solitude in rural central Virginia.

Four Poems by Sandra Kohler

Having lost it…

When I tell my therapist about having lost it completely three days ago
when my husband gets angry at me because I’ve left a cabinet door open
and he bangs his head on it, says it’s something I’ve done before, I
tell her I don’t understand what set me off so completely, so that
I scream I can’t stand it, threaten to leave, to kill myself, outrageous
unforgivable behavior, and why, all because of his understandable
irritation at the end of a long siege of frustrations, stress, anxiety
in these awful pandemic days.

What was this about, I ask, and she asks me. “My mother,” I say. That
answer that we all come up with in the end, unless it’s “my father.” But
for me, it was her, not him. And somehow, I don’t know how, I have
reached, in these days, a kind of grim unrecognized decision: I reject
her definition of me, my life. I don’t want ever again to feel guilty or
unworthy or incompetent, I am done, finally, with apologizing for my
existence.

*

Recognition

I’m thinking this morning, as I often
do, of my wish that my husband and I
had known each other decades earlier,
ages before we met, middle-aged, with
years of living behind each of us. But
today for the first time I realize I’ve been
wrong, we do have that knowledge.

Each of us still carries the young self
we were inside, bringing a childhood,
a parentage, family, first marriage, years
of living adult lives. Here and now, in
the present, we see, hear, feel aspects of
that life, that person in the other. Here
and now, in this relationship, we are
each all the selves we’ve ever been.

*

Vanishing

Climbing a steep hill of iced-over
snow in front of a public building,
library of some kind, I know I have
to extract one book from the depths
of the mound, it’s what I’m here for.
The rest has vanished. We vanish
and don’t. We are alive in the dreams
of others, or dead, dreams which may
be closer to nightmare than dream,
or not. We are strange familiar ghosts
becoming apparitions, visitations.

I lose a hearing aid, the key to my
house, an hour, a morning, a slip of
paper with the name of the nostrum
that could save me, a child’s first all-
accepting love, a friendship that was
never whole but whose fractures still
beckoned. I lose my sense of humor,
my sense of proportion, my way,
my whereabouts, my why.

Do I have anything left to say? Of
course. Do I know how to say it? Of
course not. It’s the not which gives me
the knot to unpick, whose threads can
be woven into patches, forming a
patchwork which can be sewn into
a fabric which will be a statement
of something I don’t know I know.

*

What Follows

After ten years of living here, I still
don’t know the weather, its patterns,
where it comes from. Or the domestic
weather: my daughter-in-law’s moods.

Talking to her about the garden, I get
what I’ve asked for and then don’t know
what to do with it. I can accept or reject
it. Whatever. What would whatever be?

There are grave limits not on what I
can want but on how much I can have.
The sky says anything can come along
and will, but not what or where. Our

roses are blossoming today as if there
is no tomorrow. If they’re right I should
be attending not to weather but whether:
what can I create from today’s offerings?

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word
Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.