Joan Mazza


3 O’Clock

Warmest hour of the day, eyelids heavy.
Thoughts in slow wave trickle to a ripple.
Afternoons I grow old, slow to disrobe

and climb back into my rumpled bed.
Downy hills and quilted valleys whisper,
Siesta, siesta, and I slide down

the sloped chute to deep sleep, for
two hours when the world is far and I begin
with the smallest within, inside the inside,

to wake groggy, foggy mind sluggish to plumb
the hush before a quiet vigor surfaces in words
for my days work of one nubbin.

By nine, house sheathed in darkness, night sounds
through the open window— crickets, bull frogs,
tree frogs, and somewhere near, raccoons argue

with a bobcat? Return to bed to sleep and wake
and sleep until three, coldest hour, brooding
essential exorcisms. No hope of rest.

Demanding sleep makes demons rise and prowl,
the hour in his sleep my father howled.

Speaking Yiddish
for Blanche

Just months after your mother’s death,
I spotted you in writing class. Tingle
of recognition I could not have named.

You laughed between your griefs
each time I said a word in Yiddish.
“I wish my mother could have met you.”

A language of the parents of my Brooklyn
friends, our honor classes, study time,
with Oy’s a-plenty.

O, the tsuris we have shared of family lost
and far away, your yearning to be bubbe
to kindelach in Australia that make you kvell,

and all those schmucks I tried to love,
not one mensch in the bunch. We sit
on our tuchis and shmooze, we kvetch

and nosh, without hiding our mishegas,
bemoan our turning old and klutzy.
(Okay, not you!)

If it’s not too much chutzpah for a shiksa,
I’d like to say,
“Invite me to your seder next year.”

Maybe you need this shmaltz
like a loch in kop, but to our friendship,
I say, “Mazel tov!

Gottenyu! Would I lie? It could be worse.
My meshugener Sicilian mother would have
loved you, too.


Castles where the wind blows through,
barns and farmhouses tilting with a promise
of collapse. Stone huts deep in the woods,
covered with ivy, kudzu. One tree grows
up from the center where the roof used to be.

The scent of mice and squirrel droppings,
nests sheltered in rafters and old shelving.
What is the draw of abandoned places? Once
filled with humans who shopped and played,
children ran on ground covered with weeds

so high you miss the debris. Toads and snakes hide,
along with stories of who thatched the roof,
swept the dirt floor. I want to step inside
and wander from room to room, listen
as stories seep out from walls, words held

in stains on broken crockery. Affection
and betrayal lived here together. In a corner,
a moldy teddy, once held by a child seeking
comfort. Listen for the whining of a dog
you might still hear, no longer tied outside.




Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), her poetry has appeared in Rattle, 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.

“By reading and writing poetry, I come to terms with my obsessions.”

Learn more about her at She can be reached at: