from “The Tinajera Notebook”

Forrest Gander

*          *          *

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 Xrayed,
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?