Joan Mazza

Wearing Khaki

On a plane to Atlanta, two in Khaki, new matching backpacks,
pants tucked into tan boots with pristine laces. I mistake both
for boys with their flat chests and clean faces. The light skinned one
has plaited hair in corn rows, a little knot of braid at the base

of her skull. Her hands, clean and unscarred. The other one,
dark skin shining in eastern light on this morning flight, dimples
each time he speaks to her, earphones down around his neck.

For more than a year, I have had no TV reception,
refuse the dazed and limping images.

I look again, find them sleeping, identical CD players
on their knees, arms crossed on their chests, American flag
stitched above the pocket on their right sleeve. They breathe
steady and deep as we fly at 30,000 feet.

Numbers for the Week

This morning, it was twenty-eight degrees. I photographed
red oak leaves rimed with frost. I made chicken soup, canned
ten pint jars in the pressure cooker at fifteen pounds of pressure
for seventy-five minutes. On the stump near the compost pile,
I left the skin of fourteen chicken thighs for crows and woodpeckers.

Two suicide bombers killed fifty-one people in an Iraqi market.
Twenty-seven men waiting for work in Baghdad were killed
by another suicide bomber. They knew the risks, but needed work.
Three Americans died when an improvised explosive device
detonated at a checkpoint. Three others were seriously wounded.

In preparation for a contest, I revised two poems about my dead
parents and walked up to the mailbox to send them before the deadline.
A flock of about sixty vultures posed in oaks and sweet gum
for fifty photos with my new camera and telephoto lens.
Inside a hunter’s blind, I waited for an hour, hoping to see a hawk.

In search of insurgents, three houses were invaded in Afghanistan.
Four women and eight children died, including two infants.
The army is investigating. The bodies of ten beheaded men
were discovered in Baghdad. They were tortured before being shot.

I took Michi to the groomer at seven-thirty, drove to a yard sale,
bought two paperback novels for snowy days. At Food Lion,
bought whipped cream and the ingredients for thirty-two
chocolate brownies. At one, the groomer called to say Michi was ready.

Carl Shumaker from Bridgeport, Connecticut was killed in Iraq. His death
marks 2900 Americans dead. His family says he was sweet and funny,
loved by all. He was twenty-six, leaves a wife and two-year old daughter.
Completing his third tour of duty, he was to be home for Christmas.
His best friend is recovering after losing one arm and one leg.

I changed sheets, vacuumed six bookshelves in the guestroom,
drafted three new poems, washed five loads of laundry, hung clothes
on a rack instead of using the dryer. I mended the seam on my quilt
and put out two clean towels in each of three bathrooms.

Violence in Iraq is up twenty-two per cent since the summer.
This week, the DOW was up 138 points.

[published in Winter Sky, winter 2007 and Skyline Review, January 2008;
and nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2007]

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, certified sex therapist, writing coach and seminar leader. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Perigee/Penguin). Her work has appeared in Potomac Review, Möbius, Permafrost, Writer's Digest Magazine, Playgirl, The Writer, and Writer's Journal. She’s now a full-time poet in rural central Virginia.

(author retains copyright)