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Saturday, August 29, 2020


by Joan Mazza

They gather unmasked in cheerful mobs
to celebrate their freedom, demonstrate
they’re unafraid of a tiny organism—
a Coronavirus that dare not swat them down

and leap from mouth to mouth. They
won’t renounce crowds, compelled to hold
signs that argue with reality, exempt from
precautions that doctors swear will reduce

their risk. Transplant specialists warn
of dangers from organs harvested
in motorcycle deaths. Look for evidence
of Toxoplasmosis! The infected rarely

know they carry parasites that make some
reckless, impervious to fear or danger.
Infected rodents seek out open spaces, 
display a fatal feline attraction.

Carefree, careless, feckless, watch us
humans do our thing. Hail liberty! We claim
to have free will. What bug drives me
to rise at three to write poetry? Like you,

my body’s filled with organisms, some not
yet identified, making neurotransmitters.
Ninety percent of me isn’t me. What
lives inside and really runs the show?

Author's note: I’m reading the book This is Your Brain on Parasites: How tiny creatures manipulate our behavior by Kathleen McAuliffe. Terrific! It makes me want to go back to school.

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and has taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry appears in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner (forthcoming), The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes a daily poem.