“A Septic Tank” and Other Poems by Joan Mazza

A Septic Tank

is a portal to an alternate universe.
Your disgust at opening it for cleaning
is not simply because of its stink,
not because it contains what the body
expels and sheds, not even the knowledge
of its billions of microorganisms,

many of them infectious agents that kill
when found in the wrong places. Your
revulsion surfaces with that opening
because that tank is gateway to your past,
to the DNA of all your relatives and anyone
you’ve ever touched or kissed, or whose

hand you’ve held. In that sludge are cells
of the animals and plants you’ve eaten, bits
of people who have used your bathrooms,
the contents of their history. The odors
that make you cover your nose and mouth
are only a hint, a sniff of the mess in all of us,

our careless blunders when we blurt thoughts
that hurt, our trips, falls, and failures, mistakes
we might have averted if looked up or down,
thought about the long term. Inhale the scent
of gases produced by anaerobes once in our
bodies, and watch your past play like a movie.


Unhappy Hour

I set aside an hour to have it out,
no more than once a month, to say
all the things I’ve held back, to let it rip
without restraint. For starters would
you learn the difference between your

and you’re, between it’s and its,
and what apostrophes are for. It’s not
that hard. Use that Oxford comma,
dammit. And all you wet blankets,
put a lid on it when someone gushes

over their passion for Pepperidge Farm
Milano cookies. Don’t list the perils
of sugar. Shut up and eat your celery.
Same for inane excuses for and patent
lies about the Capital insurrection, your

list of reasons for open carry, and your
ignorance about anything based in science,
like understanding natural immunity
or vaccines. I’ve had it with the likes
of you who want to keep brown-skinned

people from voting while you amass
an arsenal and oppose an increase
in the minimum wage or higher taxes
for billionaires. You aren’t better because
your skin’s a lighter shade of beige.

If you ever called Sandy Hook a false flag,
you can go fuck yourself with a rifle. Same
for anyone spreading QAnon crap or saying
Trump was sent by Jesus. For crissakes,
where’s the vaccine to inoculate these liars?

My hour’s up. See you next month when
I’ll rail about the latest mass shooting,
climate deniers while another forest burns,
and another city floods. For now, I put my
worries down— on paper, and in ink.



Around the table, the poets are all past
middle age, retired or nearly. One still
works as an OR nurse, and volunteers
to edit an online magazine. Another paints
and sculpts, has her work displayed
in a posh gallery in another town. A famous
woodcarver, professor of music, another
painter, and a violinist in our midst, three
former teachers, a psychotherapist, and
an Episcopalian priest. Several are fine
cooks. All of them grow kitchen gardens
with herbs, greens, and tomatoes.
In the supermarket, I like to pause

to think about the lives and expertise among
those choosing heads of lettuce and ears
of corn. An ophthalmologist and dentist,
an expert on wound care. A dolphin trainer
from the Miami Seaquarium visiting parents
in Virginia. In this town with three hospitals,
you’re likely to stand in the checkout line
with therapists, sports trainers, and lab techs
with specialties in hematology, or microbiology.
Who are the refrigeration engineers? They, too,
draw, sew, and have their writing voices. That
shabby looking guy is a radio personality
whose name and voice you’d recognize.


—About the Author—

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review, One Art, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Poet Lore, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia where she writes every day.

Read more of Joan’s scent poems HERE!

[i] Silience.  n. the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the fleeting solos of subway buskers, the slapdash eloquence of anonymous users, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.

(from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig)