Recent Work By Cris Mazza

 

Language needs a few new relationship words. Particularly boyfriend.

I’ll allow the issue of boy having a troubled history to speak for itself. Except to add that Black jazz musicians in the 40s began calling each other man because of the Jim Crow practice of referring to them as boys. This then is the root of the all-encompassing pronoun-slash-exclamation man used by most musicians, then bleeding into beatniks and out to many other bonded male groups: athletes, actors, (poets?).

But also, while women don’t mind (even, in my case, prefer) to be called girls, men don’t usually refer to themselves, individually, as boys. As in I’m a boy who likes ___. Yes, there’s the old standard one of the boys. Or boys’ night out. Or even my boys (although that could mean the male anatomy that comes in a pair, but I’ve never heard a woman refer to her breasts or ovaries as “my girls.”)

Feral

By Cris Mazza

Essay

A hole was needed. It was for a knot of day lily tubers removed from a garden at the other house. The ground was dry but not hard, loamy from decaying vegetation. Still, it was necessary at first to vault both feet off the ground and land, simultaneously, on the spade’s treads, in order to penetrate. The blade went through layers of moldering grass clippings, leaves, and valuable Illinois black soil. The hole was just about deep enough when the last shovelful unloaded 4 or 5 elongated eggs. One had been broken. Held in my palm, the leathery casing pulled aside, the soft nascent turtle shell was recognizable.

I do not own two houses, but I pay property taxes on two — live in the one with no mortgage and pay rent to support the mortgage, still in my name, on the one whose deed no longer includes me. A convoluted separation agreement not completed through an attorney or sanctioned by any court. I have full access to the 1.3 acre property where I no longer live. Full access to tend: to weed, prune, mulch, divide roots, till soil, and fertilize as needed. That bigger property will be put up for sale in a year or two, and its gardens have become overgrown, too bourgeoning (hence daunting) for potential buyers. I’ve been removing plants to pots, reviving and revitalizing them, then transporting to the new, more modest property.

House

By Cris Mazza

Essay

Prickett Backwaters“Dogwood,” Silver Mountain Road, Ottawa National Forest, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

I haven’t written a fishing essay, nor sat on a lakeshore, writing. The former: I still will not have, including this one. It’s not about fishing. The latter: I likewise still haven’t. Although I set up my camp chair last night at the lake, my notebook remained on the passenger seat of the Jeep. Was going to go back for the paper and pen, but a bluegill took the bait I’d put in the water before unfolding the chair. Then I never did get the notebook, or sit, the remaining 90 minutes I fished.

Campus sits west of the Chicago river, at the circle interchange of the Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways.  In the 60s UIC wedged its way into and consumed Chicago’s Little Italy, grew tentacles into the near west and south sides.  At one time called Circle Campus after the knot of concrete ramps where the two arteries bisect, it was built similarly of concrete in a style called Brutalism, emulating Soviet public housing, “riot proof,” with double-layer covered walkways akin to parking garages, an open-air amphitheater and massive concrete wheelchair ramps to 2nd floor entries reiterating the circle motif.  A miniature replica of an Eastern Bloc city, and likewise now with crumbling concrete, permanent scaffolding erected to protect students and faculty milling on (and off) grass lined footpaths under trees that replaced the severe web of covered walkways in the 90s.  The circular quad in front of 24-story University Hall underwent a decade-long project (that should’ve taken about a year) to add grassy knolls, flowered borders, and (perhaps a reminder of Brutalism) tile-lined fountains that rarely run because they’re broken.  But I walk campus without envy for Northwestern, University of Chicago, DePaul, or Loyola.  They have tradition, bigger trees, a vine-covered brick building probably called “Old Main.”  We have Brutalism.  It’s where part of me –  a native Californian – lives, has lived for almost 20 years.

Hester 2001

It was the year my favorite Beatle died, just a few months after the WTC terrorist attacks, early in my second decade at the nursery. Everyone needed diversion from the news. In the evenings I watched videos of Jane Austen novels, daytimes left my desk and went often to the nursery’s growing fields, the farthest ones out, started collecting snake skins, tortoise shells, looking for the rare mule deer antler.

Hmmm … 16 books.  Why do you keep writing?

Do we ask teachers why they continue to teach a new class every semester?Do we ask doctors why they continue to treat new patients?Sorry, this question makes me testy. (So, next week in therapy: why did I ask it of myself, and publicly?)

Answer: Perhaps I can’t bear to leave the safe world of my vicarious life.Or I still have more to say?Or the things I have to say, I haven’t said right yet?Or I haven’t finished dwelling on, obsessing over, experimenting with the fragments of my experience?Or is that the same as really being alive?Is it because if I’m not writing I don’t know if I’m alive?