|Image source: “The Never-Ending Nightmare That is This Election” by Tom Tomorrow|
Anxiety is a necklace of barbed wire, ankle bracelets
shackled to a boat filling with water. We know we’re
going down. I wake gasping, unable to tell dream
from reality, my bed a rocking sea. That muffled
sound of a crying cat—locked in a closet? —
an owl on this chilly night. I open the window
to listen, but he hoots only once more. Autumn scents
drift in with the cold, heat vent blowing at my feet.
In bed, fragrance of old dog and woolen blankets,
shadows of barking. This isn’t Mineral or Richmond,
but unnamed rural Central Virginia, oak trees and crows
content in their ignorance of news and election polls,
unable to comprehend the concept of email or fraud.
No, they understand fraud, who cheats and misleads
instead of warning of danger. The crows know who’s
a friend because even birds show their true colors.
Who goes there? No one answers. Silence—
the gift of second sleep. Today, I’ll be part of a panel
of writers talking to those who want to be published
but don’t write. Hopefuls with empty notebooks ask
about agents and fees, not about craft. They could win
the Pulitzer, Booker, and Nobel for their ideas alone.
They’ll be on TV, have their own show. About what,
they don’t know. No one asks, Joan, how can I become
a better writer? What books might be instructive by example?
This trend toward magical thinking will ruin us, as if
the most bombastic white men could offer salvation,
a cure for bad judgment. I whisper, Mon Dieu! although
I don’t believe in any Dieu, not Thor or Zeus
or even Aphrodite. My old dog makes her little cough
that means, Come back to bed, and I do, wearing fleece
and flannel, not barbed wire, my mind still shackled.
Author’s Note: Based on Twenty Little Poetry Projects by Jim Simmerman.
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, Kestrel, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Slipstream, 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.