Gâteau & Other Poetry by Joan Mazza

Carpe Diem Series

Joan Mazza’s poetry brings such delight in the way she addresses the pandemic and life within it, while also acknowledging the hardships. Her first poem might even make you a bit hungry! Check out her incredible work!

My Favorite Line, “Give me a break—cake to numb my heartache, baked until
the sugars brown, sliced pineapples turned upside

for Susan, in pandemic solidarity

Even in French, it has too many calories—
those lovely éclairs and croissants I wake
craving— tarts, tortes, and turnovers with figs,
apricots, and dates. I pine for pound cake,
chase chiffon and angel food, cheesecake with
chocolate swirled, cupcakes, muffins. Even

date-nut bread with pecans is sweet enough.
I’m jonesing for an all-day buffet of desserts
only, with layer cakes on pedestals, frosting
dripping down the sides, roses created
from butter cream and tinted pink and peach.
Large spoons summon me to tubs of vanilla

and chocolate pudding, rice pudding, Jell-o,
and custards. I salivate for a hunk of apple pie
with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a fudge
sundae with sprinkles and nuts, a banana split
and crisp sugar cookies on the side. I’ll take
a cake sandwich, cake pizza, penne baked

with chocolate chips, brownies, and cream puffs.
A year of no parties, gatherings, or restaurants
gives me the shakes and makes me want to eat
all things sweet before I graduate to Pringles,
Fritos, salted peanuts, cashews, and pistachios.
Awake since 3 AM, I’m still fasting, but must

wait to eat until ten. Forget those healthy meals
of greens and beans, a four-ounce steak. Toss
out those salads that should be eaten with a goddamn
rake. Monday I’ll turn on the brakes. Give me

a break—cake to numb my heartache, baked until
the sugars brown, sliced pineapples turned upside
down. Today, cake. For God’s sake, more cake!

Unbutton My Soul

How much courage is needed
to play forever,
as the ravines play,
as the river plays.

– From Boris Pasternak’s, “Bacchanalia”

A buttonhole is a portal to subterranean channels,
buried by commandments. It’s a secret doorway
to unfasten the strictures of the Catholic Church
with all its shalt-nots and guilt-ridden rules to inhibit
pleasure. Not only self-pleasure and the sensual
pleasures of skin with a partner, but simple thrills

attached to reading mysteries and the awe at changing
seasons. Where is the guidance for finding thrills
and joy, like leaping into cold water or a hot tub?
Or a bed? What guidance does the liturgy provide
for tenderness toward children, refugees, disabled?
Where are the rituals to cultivate compassion

for the distressed and poor? I’m unbuttoning,
taking off my refugee mentality with my fear
of the new, taking off layers of heavy fleece,
hats that squeeze my brain. I’m taking off
for the woods with my shirt open and flapping
in the breeze my body makes with my stride,

open to the snares of emotional memories,
happy to be tripped by unexpected playfulness,
blissed out to see the tangled vines of greenbrier
as beautiful, its berries gathered for jam. I’m
tripping and jamming to the music of finches
and titmice, music of the spheres I hear when

I hold still and halt my breath to accept
my sphere of influence right here, right now.
Let creative affluence assail me and hold me
in its tattooed arms to whisper, You will
create dreamy gestures to enter unknown
kingdoms. No art is dumb or wasted.

One Year In

Not surprised by having to quarantine,
not shocked by empty shelves at groceries,
I’d expected to see a pandemic during my
lifetime, anticipated staying home alone
for three months, maybe four. It’s one year

since I stocked up, locked down. Vaccines
are here and working. I’m registered, await
my turn, will take any brand available, thrill
at my immune response. This year I did
what I always do: I cooked and baked bread,

labeled everything I froze with contents, date,
and rotated my stock of homemade soup
and canned goods. My friends have blossomed
into artists, turned to watercolors and markers
to draw portraits and animals I recognize.

I’m still writing daily poems about my old
obsessions, waiting for a shift, a clever plot
twist in my life. I don’t need a rescue, know
any prince meant for me won’t ignore the signs
on my driveway that say, Private. No Trespassing.

For those who’ve turned again to alcohol, weed,
and overeating, you have my deep compassion.
These are the hard times, unprecedented times
we’ll talk about for decades, as my parents
spoke of war and The Great Depression,

as I once recounted memories of the day JFK
was shot in Dallas, and the other assassinations
in that decade when the world seemed off
its axis. We’ll talk about January 6 with awe
at the mobs who swallowed conspiracies

about implants, 5G, child trafficking, and slave
colonies on Mars. We won’t forget the claims
that liberals drank baby blood for longer lives.
One year in, we ask, will I emerge whole?
What have I learned about my humanity?


Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes a poem every day. 



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