We Left My Father and Sister at Home by Joan Mazza

Joan Mazza has earned an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2023 Poetry Contest
Hay bale and distant hills
Eco Strikes by Michelle Lamberti. CC license.
We Left My Father and Sister at Home

Because my mother didn’t drive, we took the bus to Winsted,
Connecticut. Two of us alone to visit cousins on the Nicosia
side of the family. They’d named a cow Josephine,
after my grandmother, who took it as a compliment.

That summer I was fourteen and fell in love with the scent
of hay, adored by the kitten who lived under the house,
and cousin Mike. Zio Nicosia, too old to drive the tractor,
taught me to gather eggs. Chickens fluttered, kicked up

manure dust and feathers. “Do you know if they’re fertile?
“No fertile.” He frowned at me. City girl, I puzzled over this.
“No roost,” he added. “Oh, roosters!” I reached beneath
the fussy, warm hens and loaded my basket

with brown eggs fried for breakfast. Until the sun went down
and turned the trees to silhouettes, I spent the day jumping
off the porch into a pile of hay with my cousins.
Around a long, stained wood table, we ate garden green beans

and soup my mother made from a hen in a black cast iron pot.
On the counter, white ceramic canisters with blue flowers:
SUGAR, FLOUR, SALT. Mason jars held dry beans, peas,
rice, and tubettini. Cigarettes, rum and Coca Cola for quiet

Aunt Margaret. “I can buy ‘em and sell ‘em,” Uncle Albert said
of everyone and drank his scotch. Even the children drank
some homemade wine. I slept in the parlor on an old couch
that smelled of their dog, long dead. Between the coats of paint,
conversations of a hundred years. All night I listened.

Joan Mazza
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Poet Lore, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.

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