Through my torso, the smooth
diffusion of aguas ardientes. Another
Fan whir covers distant
rooster crow, dog bark cuts through fan whir.
That the world has you in its time? Is that what
she said? Meaning I too
drank from the glass on the night stand, swallowing
the spider before I knew
I'd seen it?
girls in heels and
cross the window, their necks
bent shyly down.
Glancing at my watch, I turn back
to the hechicera, her face ashen, whirled
with lines. You still haven’t told me
if she’ll recover, I say.
You have the eyes of—, she
repeats twice, not finding the word. Then,
De donde viene?
* * *
So the present
hoses itself out. And with it—
Sitting in the lobby of the clinic,
its walls painted
like children's rooms with starfish
and trains and jungle birds
and the children shuttling back and forth, the nurse
calling their name and a few words
in English or Spanish, the children
taking their mother's
or father's hand,
trailing the nurse past
a registration desk, down
the hall, the sequence of closed doors,
toward the one door open. Radiance inside. Bald
children wearing hats, and a bald baby in a mother's arms, and
here in the lobby, where I wait for you
to be X-rayed,
some stranger whose exhaustion
can’t be fathomed, begins to snore. If this
is the world and its time, as irrevocably it is,
when I step out into sunlit air
suffused with sausage smoke and bus exhaust,
with its relentless ads
for liquor and underwear
where am I then?
* * *
Quien es? First words
of Hamlet. Last
of Billy the Kid.
Who is it on her knees in the Tepito market
screaming for money, naked to the waist,
operatic, arms raised to expose
double mastectomy scars?
Who is the traga-años, swallower
of years, selling me lottery tickets
in a tortilleria, a wrinkled
Mazatec in a red
t-shirt with the words Fresh
Fruit Delicious across her chest.
And who was it the surgeons narcotized
before excising a chunk of muscle and cancerous
flesh over my shoulder
blade and grafting the hollow
with a sheet of my own skin the breadth
of a paperback, assuring me later
the wound would fill in with blood and
flux so now,
twenty years later, this salsa de chile de arbol
makes my scar throb?