The Tinajera Notebook
for C Through my torso, the smooth diffusion of aguas ardientes. Another shot. Dawn. 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? Two girls in heels and communion dresses 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?
From Core Samples of the World, published by New Directions. Copyright © 2011 by Forrest Gander. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Forrest Gander is the author of several poetry collections, including Be With (New Directions, 2018), winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2011-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/tinajera-notebook