Authors and Poets
Authors and Poets

Photos used with permission from the Academy of American Poets

Last updated:
November 19, 2017
Lori M. Cameron, editor

Elizabeth and Mary – Nina Tassi

Fall 2000, vol. 4, no. 2

After the first shining moment,
the moment of rapturous recognition,
when Mary and Elizabeth at sight of
each other burst into words that soared
above their ordinary ken, Mary settled in.
And the small house filled with light.

Theirs was a time of shimmering quiet.
Sometimes Mary walked out to the desert
and sang as she set about gathering flowers.
Sometimes, in the kitchen kneading bread,
the women exclaimed at the boisterous kick
of Elizabeth’s babe that sent an apron flying.

Elizabeth, heavy now with child, carried
water from the well to the sunny bench where
Mary sat and bent over her to wash her hair,
then rubbed in fragrant oils and brushed
her hair till it lay shining about her face.
Zechariah kept apart: these were women’s ways.

So they passed three months.  On the last day
they rose at dawn, embraced, then Mary left.
Elizabeth stood by the well, watching her go,
watching Mary’s still-slender figure diminish
and finally disappear into the distant hills.
On the horizon, only the rising sun was left.

Unaccountably then, Elizabeth felt a heaving
within her; she was overtaken by an upsurge of
incomprehensible grief.  Shudders shook her body,
nearly toppling her.  She gripped the well’s edge
to steady herself.  Zechariah, rushing over, held
tightly to her, beside himself in his wife’s grief.

Elizabeth at length was brought back by the babe
in her womb.  Recalling that her time was near, she
grew calm and went inside to straighten Mary’s room.
Smoothing the coverlet, she soothed her shaking hands.
She thought at first to freshen the flower jar, but
instead lay down to rest in her dear cousin’s place.

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