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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 10: October 2021
Poem: 154 words
By Joan Mazza

False Positive

—After Lucille Clifton
We were camping in a tent for the weekend 
that early summer I heard your faint cry, 
after the test said positive, and your father 

cursed and growled and grabbed a beer. 
I didn’t want to nurture another mistake 
and prayed for one more stab at planned joy. 

You would have said I was too young 
and impatient like my mother. You would have 
found me sharp against your soft parts, 

unable to hear what you had not words 
to say. Your father would have told you, 
Don’t read, said you couldn’t go to college. 

That Sunday afternoon when I felt the ache 
and then the warm rush, alone in the bathroom, 
far from the tent, I washed. And washed my face. 

If I am ever grieving for you and the other 
unborn, let the trees take me up in their arms 
and drop me back to solid ground. 



Publisher’s Note:

See also the lost baby poem by Lucille Clifton, from good woman: poems and a memoir, 1969–1980 (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1987); reprinted at Poetry Foundation dot org.

Joan Mazza
Issue 10, October 2021

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 has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The MacGuffin, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.

Author’s website: www.joanmazza.com

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

I’m not the one, third of five poems by Mazza in Poethead (12 July 2020)

Season of No, reprinted at Verse Virtual (March 2021)

Two Poems, “Delusions du Jour” and “What’s Real,” in Misfit Magazine (Issue 31, Fall 2020)

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