“Traveling with Natalie,” “Subjunctive Mood,” and “We Walked Three Miles in Snow”

“Traveling with Natalie,” “Subjunctive Mood,” and “We Walked Three Miles in Snow”

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Photo by michelle azevedo on Unsplash

Traveling with Natalie

Propped on three pillows, another

under my knees, I am following

Natalie Goldberg as she travels

to Japan and France, sits zazen

with her students, through walking

meditation, writing longhand

in a café, always in a spiral notebook

with a pen that lets me write fast,

no censoring, no analyzing, my pen

racing across the expanse of lined

paper as I record what my head

listens to—conversations from

my last night’s dream and voices

from fifty years ago, only now

I say No, and No way, and they

say the unexpected, reveal their flaws

and insecurities, how they hate

being corrected and struggle

to apologize in phrases as puzzling

as koans, while I try to solve

the riddle of my life with Natalie,

who sits very close, lies down

on my bed and asks questions

to invite me to go deeper, questions

I answer only on this white page,

answers that startle me,

my hand never stopping,

no one to tell me,

Don’t write about that.

Subjunctive Mood

I wake to read the forecast for snow,

sleet, and rain tomorrow when temperatures

will hover at freezing, and the power will go out.

I’m in the mood for hypotheticals and surreality.

I pass through a door in the downstairs closet,

one I have to bend to open, and step down

into a passage that takes me to another door

that opens in Ft. Lauderdale, pink bougainvillea

bloom against the fence of my back yard with pool

and hot tub, where I last lived. No longer mine,

house sold, yet could be the focus of imagination

if I were to allow such fancy flights. If only my skills

for writing counterfactuals were more developed.

Through this short passageway, neither hot nor cold,

I pass from ice storm into warm humidity

and palm trees, wearing a red bikini over

my forty-year-old body, tanned and toned

from daily yoga.

This is the kingdom of wishes, of “If only,”

“If I were younger,” and “If I were to do it over.”

Not regret or future projection, not nostalgia

or hallucination, but a plunge into the fantastic

and strange, a mix of golden sunrises

and youth’s hopeful vision.

I step down into the blue pool, into warm water,

cooler than the sultry air, and dive in.

We Walked Three Miles in Snow

This snow shuts cities down, and those of us

living in the woods stay home, unable

to drive the 900 feet to the mailbox. Today’s

snow reminds me of the New York blizzard

in 1969, when you and I walked to work

at Brooklyn College down the middle

of unplowed streets, no traffic sounds

or buses. Without students we had no work,

no labs to prepare for biology or chemistry.

We walked for a married adventure, together

on a trek through city blocks made white

and clean. What did I think about the future?

The children we expected but never had,

the house in the country with a garden

and a tire swing. Sure we’d stay together

to grow old. We moved to the country

separately, where you remarried

and divorced again, where you followed

the example of the former owner.

In your house on a hundred acres, you

drank until you won admission to the ICU,

when death parted you from your life

of solitude, TV, and cleaning your guns.

I did not remarry, but chose a life

I love, surrounded by books. How foreign

you would find me now, no longer

gregarious or sociable, living in quiet

solitude, no television droning bad news,

snow falling outside my window, bright

white on the pond’s black surface.

About the Author

Joan Mazza

Joan Mazza worked as a microbiologist and psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Slant, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.

Read more work by Joan Mazza.