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In Coral Bracho’s poem, translated by Forrest Gander from the Spanish, we are witnesses to the thoughts of the poet’s mother, who died from complications of Alzheimer’s. The mother vividly depicts the terror of losing yourself within a formerly capable and operating mind and body. Initially, she answers her own questions rapidly with both confusion and confidence. Soon the questions vanish, as she begins to describe the environment around her in a state of imaginative, surreal speculation. Selected by Victoria Chang
By Coral Bracho, translated by Forrest Gander
My suitcase isn’t here,
but neither is the room.
What room? I haven’t been in any
room here, but there must have been one.
Did I sleep in it?
There were some people, but I don’t know if I was there.
Where’d they leave their bags?
Two of them just passed me by
before they turned into the corridor.
But into which one? All the hallways are white,
and they seem to be padded.
It must be those two who brought me to this place.
Probably they went to shower,
and no doubt they assume I know how to get there,
or to the room,
or to some more central hallway
that must be around here somewhere,
which is where the suitcases go,
one next to the other on some contraption of red tubes.
But who knows if mine is there too.
I hear the noise of the showers.
They’re open full blast and the water gushes out
and swirls away, but there’s something dirty
that doesn’t drain off.
First I have to find my suitcase,
although there’s no place in the showers to put it.
Those people who came in aren’t here anymore.
I’m going to wait here, see if someone comes by
who can tell me how to get back. Or see if they
want to guide me.
Victoria Chang is a poet whose new book of poems is “The Trees Witness Everything” (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). Her fifth book of poems, “Obit” (2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in Antioch University’s M.F.A. program. Coral Bracho is the author of many books of poetry, including “Firefly Under the Tongue” (New Directions, 2008) and “It Must Be a Misunderstanding” (New Directions, 2022), in which this poem appears. She is the recipient of the Aguascalientes National Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and the Xavier Villaurrutia Award, among other accolades. Bracho was born in Mexico City and still resides there.