Mariano Zaro



(Spain – USA)






My father and I on the balcony
watch dozens of sparrows walking
on the roofs across from us.
A sparrow doesn’t really know
how to make a nest, he says.
They are messy. Now, a stork,
that’s different. A stork makes a perfect nest.


My father looks at the clouds.
Can you tell a male from a female sparrow? He asks.


No, I can’t. I say.


Look, male sparrows have a dark stain on their chest,
like a bib or an apron. Females don’t.


And I look,
and there they are:
chests with aprons, chests without aprons.
Every thing in order.
Clean or dirty,
black or white,
male or female.


I cross my arms against my chest.
My father does not look at me.
And then he says,
But we are not sparrows, you know.






The first time I saw her

it was at the doctor’s office,

in the waiting room.

She was a woman

without a nose.

I was ten, she was old,

small, dark.

I was with my mother.

My mother took me many times

to the doctor´s office,

but that’s another story.


I know I was ten because

I had brought my math homework.

We were studying the binary system then,

we only did that in fourth grade.

One plus one was not two,

it was one-zero,

it was too complicated,

the school dropped it after a while,

and we went back to the routine of long division.


I was doing my math homework when she entered.

She came with her daughter, I believe.

The old woman did not have a nose,

she had the hole for the nose, not the nose itself.

A hole the shape of an inverted heart,

like a hazelnut.

A hole like the hole you see on a skull

where the nose used to be.

This skull was alive.

On top of the hole a tiny, white, pointy triangle—

the remains of bone,


I could not stop staring.


My mother tried everything:

Go, get me a magazine, do your homework.

Don’t you need to go to the bathroom?

I kept staring.


The woman said It’s ok. He can look.

Do you want to look? She asked me.

And I just went toward her. She was seated.

I stood in front of her, face to face.

I looked without restraint.

I wanted to see the inside of her head.

Does it hurt? I asked.

Sometimes. She said.


My mother apologized.

Don’t worry. The woman said.


I saw her one more time, in church.

She had her nose covered

with a white gauze.

I said hello, she smiled back.






He snores, I look at him.
He wakes up.
I did not cry as much today, he says.
The dogs bark outside, an airplane goes by.
We want to believe that everything is as usual.
There is a painting on the bedroom wall–
a small bird carrying a box, a big box.
It has always been there, since I met him.
Today the box looks too heavy.


He eats the cheese and crackers
against the doctor’s orders.
I am not looking.
Then, he needs to go to the bathroom.
He is too frail.
He does not make it.
I clean him.
You always wanted a piece of my ass.
He says.
The humor is still there.
I open the window, wash my hands, take out the trash.
Come back. Wash my hands again.


I feel guily when I wash my hands for the third time.
And then he asks me questions.
I close the window to gain some time.
I don’t know what to say,
I don’t know what helps him more–
what I tell him, what I hide,
maybe nothing can help at this stage.


He falls asleep again,
snores louder than we could expect
from a body like that.















Mariano Zaro is the author of four poetry books: 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. His poems have appeared in New Baroque, LA MelangeRiver’s VoiceAskewBadlandsAl Aire Nuevo and Luces y Sombras. He has translated American poets Philomene Long, Alicia Vogl Sáenz, Sarah Maclay, Michelle Mitchel-Foust and Tony Barnstone. As a fiction writer, his short stories have been featured in several literary journals in Spain and the United States: Menos 15El signo del gorriónCaracolaThe Louisville ReviewThe Baltimore ReviewPinyonMagnapoets and Portland Review. In 2004 he received the Roanoke Review Short Fiction Prize.

M. Zaro was born in Borja (Spain) in 1963 and has lived in Santa Monica, California since 1994. He earned a Master’s degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and a Ph. D. in Linguistics from the University of Granada (Spain). He teaches Spanish at Rio Hondo College.

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