Mariano Zaro









When Baldomera performs her own death,

we children sing to her

Baldomera, Baldomera,

se te ve la faltriquera.

Baldomera, Baldomera,

we can see your underwear.


She opens the front doors of the house,

drags an old mattress on the floor,

puts it in the center

with two candles, one on each side.

She dresses in white,

wears a little wreath of paper flowers,

grabs a rosary,

lies on top of the mattress

and waits.


Her face is white.

She is not sick, my mother has told me,

that’s just rice powder.


We can see your underwear,

we can see your underwear,

we sing.


We sing until she gets up

and runs and chases us

through the streets.

Sometimes she loses her wreath,

the paper petals fly away.


We are young, she is old.

We run faster, we escape.

One day, one day I will catch you all, she says.


And I know it does not matter

how fast I run, how young I am.

One day she will catch me,

like a dog that bites your ankle

and doesn’t let go.






María Elena eats a yogurt a day,

low fat, not at once. And little more.

Some baby carrots, perhaps,

a rice cake.

Eating makes me dirty.                            

But people don’t know

that I am always hungry.

This is what she told me once,

between rehearsals.


We are in the same theater class.

We rehearse in the evenings

and all day Saturdays

in a warehouse

that used to be a furniture store.


She comes late, María Elena.

She still has one third of the yogurt,

intact, in the container.

She closes the lid with Scotch tape

so she can carry the yogurt in her purse.

She also carries a white plastic spoon

and her baby carrots.

Because of all the carrots she eats

the skin of her hands is turning orange,

pale orange, not the whole skin,

that line where the palm becomes

the back of your hand,

that perimeter.


Sometimes María Elena sucks the empty spoon,

when she is distracted, looking away.

She has sunken cheeks,

that thing that looks so good in the movies.


She is Neighbor #1 in a play by Lorca,

the pregnant neighbor.

She refuses to wear the small,

round pillow under her dress.

I think the director has given up on that.


She also has a short monologue,

and at the end,

you can hear the effort

of her breathing, when she inhales,

you can see the veins on her neck,

the pasty white saliva,

the thick hairs on her arms

against the light,

the ribs through the fabric.

She has no breasts.


When she is finished

she puts on her coat,

tightens the belt

around her waist,

looks inside her purse,

lies down on an old couch,

and falls asleep.


I wake her up

when the rehearsal is over—

her arm on her face,

at an angle,

the plastic spoon

on the floor

covered with teeth marks.




CONVENIENCE STORE                                                                       


I went to the convenience store,

he says. He is a family friend.

I pick him up in front of his

apartment building.

It’s Thanksgiving or Passover.

I only see him twice a year.

He doesn’t have a car.

I pick him up,

he sits in the passenger seat.

He complains about his knees—arthritis,

complains about not finding a job

at his age.


He smells like soap today.

I told him he couldn’t come into the car

if he didn’t shower.

His nails are long, ridged,

some of them split, broken,

peeling off.

Maybe some kind of mineral

deficiency, some medication’s side effect.

Must be uncomfortable

to maneuver in life

with your nails getting caught everywhere—

socks, sleeves, sweaters.

I don’t think he cares.


He is clean shaven,

has missed some stubble

on the left chin—

there is always something,

it looks like an island

of dead grass.


I went to the convenience store,

he says,

and I bought a soda

and a candy bar.

But I didn’t have

enough money.

I needed 25 cents more.

The girl in the store

took out 25 cents

from her own pocket.

The next day I went back

and I put the 25 cents

 in the penny jar.

I think she was happy to see me.


How old is she? I ask.


Probably my age,

but she looks younger, he says.


She opened a can of soda,

when I went back,

you know,

and we passed it back and forth.

I told her that she was pretty.

We have the same taste in music,

and I started talking

about the bands I know,

because I was in a band.

I played electric guitar.

We went everywhere, in a bus.

I made a list.


You made a list. I say.


A list of all the things

I want to tell her.

I don’t want to forget.

It has happened to me before,

that I forget.

I have to practice.

Can I practice with you?

Like, I think of you all the time,

and you were so kind

when you put the 25 cents

from your pocket

and I was in a band


and we should go out

to a concert or something,

and I want to touch you.


He covers his mouth

with his hands,

like a child.











Mariano Zaro is the author of four bilingual books of poetry: Where From/Desde Donde, Poems of Erosion/Poemas de la erosión, The House of Mae Rim/La casa de Mae Rim and Tres letras/Three Letters. Zaro’s poems have been included in the anthologies Monster Verse (Penguin Random House), Wide Awake (Beyond Baroque, Venice, CA), The Coiled Serpent (Tía Chucha Press, San Fernando, CA), Angle of Reflection (Arctos Press, CA) and in several magazines in Spain, Mexico and the United States: Luces y Sombras (Tafalla, Spain), La Peste (México D.F.), Askew (Ventura, CA), Diálogo (DePaul University, Chicago), Zócalo Public Square (Arizona State University) and Tupelo Quarterly (Finalist of the Tupelo Quarterly Inaugural Poetry Contest, Tupelo Press).


He conducts a series of video interviews with prominent California poets as part of the literary project Poetry.LA. (www.Poetry.LA)


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