Waiting for Pentecost


poems by

Nancy Craig ZarZar

Poetry chapbook, 46 pages, $10 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-096-1

Release date: 2007


Nancy Craig Zarzar is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. She received a B.A. in English from Davidson College in 1987 and an M.A. in English from North Carolina State University in 1992. She taught as a lecturer of English at North Carolina State University and has previously published poetry in Southern Poetry Review. She currently resides in Raleigh, where she home schools her three daughters.

Waiting for Pentecost

I was married beside the river,
to the babble of strange-throated birds.
My husband, whom I hardly knew,
took vows in his language, and I in mine.
How strange, that words are only sounds.
That night his dark hands murmured across my body,
as if meaning were a kind of Braille on the skin.
But he could not find me there.
At last, we grew accustomed to the silence—
my tongue would not hold his language.
When I spoke, he softly drew his hand across my lips
and smiled, as if unwilling
to untangle the nonsense.
Then his mouth came down,
putting out sound like a candle.

In the heavy afternoons,
we passed purple fruit and loaves of bread
across the ocean of our table.
A green parrot in a cage muttered to himself-
a stranger had taught him to speak.
At dusk, when the winds gathered over the water,
I listened for birds calling,
but they seemed to have become mute.
I think the birds here mate secretly,
and live alone.

Once, I dreamed as my husband spoke
his words became colored serpents
whose bellies glistened with tangled markings.
They encircled my throat and hands,
then wound around my head to cover my eyes.
I must have screamed in my sleep,
for when I awoke,
his tentative fingers were brushing my throat.
At last, a sound he understood.

Sometimes in my loneliness
I imagined we were suddenly grafted together at the temples—
a man-woman exchanging secrets through our blood.
One thought could move our four hands.
I am sure there are creatures as strange
wandering in the labyrinth of our woods.

Now I have been married for ten springs.
Each year I wait for a Pentecost that never finds us.
I often dream those tongues of fire
have burned the masks off our words
so we can touch and read their faces.
But in this world, in the shadow of the Tower,
we must choose between babble and silence.

At night, in our attic bedroom,
I sit alone by the window,
yearning for something to break itself with sound.
I am answered by his breathing,
like the brush of nothingness.
I watch as the river darkens,
carrying swans and refuse toward the sea.

Equus: A Psychiatrist Quarrels with His Success

Insanity made him a Centaur,
his flesh and horsehide fusing in his nettled mind
I with my fine scalpel severed them—
now he walks like any boy.
His mind is my toy.
I cut out the peculiar,
emasculate the brain
so it no longer breeds delusion.
But what is the conclusion?
He rode the stallion naked
through thorns and mist;
his mind began to whinny
as his thighs pummeled hot flanks.
Do I deserve thanks?
I dismounted him from a throne of sorts—
remade him from a god into a gelding.
Now he is free
to walk in human mediocrity.
There will be no god-face
snorting hot breath in his dreams—
he’ll dream of dull-haired girls
with cheeks of ice.
There’ll be no more sacrifice.
I sucked his spirit out,
let the horse out of the barn,
made his tongue forget the bit,
his eyes the nostril and the mane.
Behold! The boy is tame
He’s to a trot now, no, a walk;
so take the bridle, he’ll submit.
Observe, his empty eyes no longer yearn.
Nothing in him now will ever burn.


First, there was silence.

I shaped him from soft clay
in the strange, ocher light of winter.

His thighs were like doves
cupped in my hands—

his mouth,
two ibis in mirrored flight,
parting beneath my fingers.

I breathed myself into him
and now he is draped
like a soft, heavy bird
in my arms.

He is made of words.

In my loneliness
I wait for him to speak.

SKU: 978-1-59948-096-1 Categories: , , Tag: