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  February 2005
volume 3 number 1
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Mariano Zaro February 2005



art by Luis Rubio Vargas

    Mariano Zaro was born in Borja (Spain) in 1963 and since 1994 he has lived in Santa Monica. He attended the University at Zaragoza and earned his master's degree in Spanish Literature in 1986. His work has been published in Spain's literary magazines El signo del gorrión and Luces y sombras. His poetry has been included in the anthologies Al aire nuevo (San Luis Potosí, Mexico), and New Baroque (Los Angeles). Among his translations are The California Mission poems/Poemas de las Misiones de California by Philomene Long and a collection of poems from Hair Pieces by Alicia Vogl Sáenz. His short fiction has appeared in The Louisville Review and The Baltimore Review. His first poetry book Where From/Desde Donde, was published by Bay Books (Santa Monica) in 1996. In September 2003, Carayan Press (San Francisco)published his Poems of erosion/Poemas de la erosi?n.
    Mariano is currently working on a collection of portraits (short stories) entitled Imago Animi.



T?a Rafaela

    She was devoted to cauliflowers, Ta Rafaela. She kneels on the center of her garden and prays. Por estas criaturas, Dios mo, por estas criaturas. For these creatures, my Lord, for these creatures. Look, look. Ta Rafaela clears the thick leaves and caresses the white, wrinkly cauliflower heads. I am eight years old, early autumn, already cold. Ta Rafaelas husband feeds the geese. She kisses the cauliflowers and lifts her arms to the heavens. Tesoro mo, mis ngeles calvitos. My treasure, my little bold angels.

    This coffee is so good, so good this coffee. Ta Rafaela talks to my mother. That was last summer, when she came to visit us to bring persimmons for my father. He liked persimmons, strange fruit for a simple man who never asked for anything. Persimmons, maybe his only eccentricity. These are the best persimmons you ever have tried, the best persimmons. She drank her coffee with cup and saucer lifted over the kitchen table. I dont want to make a mess. She held her sleeve with her hand and scrubbed the surface of the table. Like this, clean, clean. One, two, three, four circles, her sleeve pressed against the wood. Clean, clean. Not a single drop, not a speck.

    I see him in the distance, almost erased, devoured by a storm of nervous feathers. To Patricio, Ta Rafaelas husband, feeds the geese. He flaps his arms and makes slow, clumsy noises, like a large bird trapped in the dizziness of brandy. Your To Patricio was a good man. The day we were married he took me on his donkey for the honeymoon. We didnt go anywhere. We just went to the river, crossed the bridge and came back here. I crossed the bridge on top of the donkey. Como una reina. Then your To Patricio stopped the animal. As soon as I touched the ground I started to sing. I was not nervous, I sang until your To Patricio kissed my mouth for the first time. The donkey witnessed everything but he didnt say a word. I remember the donkeys nostrils, two black olives puffing over my head making a sound like sandpaper. Las cosas de la carne. The things of the flesh. What do you know? . Qu sabes t de las cosas de la carne?

    This coffee is so good, so good this coffee. I hope you like the persimmons. Look, look at this one, look at this face, this little face, like a baby. I have my trees, my garden, you have your daughters, and your son. You are so lucky. I have my garden, these are my babies. She stopped. Silence carved all the wrinkles on her face. Her eyelids gave up, few lashes left, age takes everything, few lashes, wet at the edge. We couldnt have children, you know, after what happened to me. We couldnt.

    Take this tray and bring it to Ta Rafaela, my mother told me. Tell her it is for your sisters wedding. Yes, my sisters wedding was going to take place in a few weeks and it was customary to send a tray of baked goods to friends and neighbors. My mother covered the pastries with a white napkin. Two letters embroidered in a corner, faded by time but still blue and palpitating. Capital P and capital R, my mothers initials. Go, go and take this to Ta Rafaela. Dont forget your coat, its cold, my son.

    After what happened to me, we couldnt have children. What happened to me, all that blood. I didnt die because Virgin Mary was watching over me. She was watching. All that blood. I felt like my intestines were coming out of my body. Thats what you feel. All that blood, Virgin Mary saved me. My husband came, I remember that, but we didnt call the doctor or anything. I just waited there. I waited and the Virgin Mary saved me.

    To Patricio disappeared among the geese. Look, look at these cauliflowers. There was nobody else around, just Ta Rafaela and me, early autumn, cold, inside and out.

    After a month or so I went to the hospital. This coffee, this coffee you gave me is so good, so good. No, no, I dont want anymore, I dont want to bother you. I went to the hospital and this is what they did to me. She lifted her long, black, heavy skirt, no underwear, and I could see it. I saw her pubic hair, gray and scarce, weak and brittle like a sick fern. Then, behind the flesh, for a second, the quick shine of a piece of metal. Like a polished coin without marks, or numbers. I went to the hospital and they put this down there. Thats what they did to me. To hold my intestines inside, to hold my intestines, they said. Its like a spoon, like the head of a spoon with a hole in the center. After what happened to me, we couldnt have children. Well, we couldnt have any more children, because, the first one, the first one when I almost died, the first one when the Virgin Mary saved me, all that blood, the first one, that was a child, my only child.

    I buried her here. Ta Rafaela was standing in the middle of the cauliflowers, both hands pointing to the ground. I could tell it was a girl. A baby girl, that drenched flower crashed on the floor. All that blood, a girl. All that mud, we are made of mud, you know, mud that smells like rotten fruit. I still can see her hand, that skin, the veins, a slice of watermelon against the sun, the veins. A slice of watermelon. I named her Mary and I buried her here. It was a baby girl, a baby girl, that blood, that drenched flower.

    Nobody else around. Ta Rafaela cut out one of the cauliflowers and gave it to me. Here, for your mother. Put it on top of the tray, no, let me clean the tray first. Say thanks to your mother for the pastries and all the blessings to your sister. I hope she has a lot of children. We couldnt have children after what happened to me. She placed the cauliflower on top of the tray and covered it with the white napkin. Dont forget your coat, its cold out there. Its cold.

    I walked fast back home. I could feel my heart beat on my temples, on my hand, a heart beat coming from under the white napkin. My mother put the cauliflower on top on the table and cut it open with a kitchen knife. Both halves swinging like a tumbler doll. A little soul vanished in the air. I closed my eyes and I prayed. Dios te salve, Mara, llena eres de gracia.

(previously published under the title "Ta Roberta" in The Baltimore Review and The Louiville Review).

copyright 2004 Mariano Zaro