After I left here

to travel there,

After I took a taxi

to the airport making sure

to show up three hours early;

(it was driven by a man

from Egypt, not from here):

After I sat for twenty-four hours

in airplanes and in airports,

changing planes and watching

the color of the skins

change from white to black,

heard the language spoken change

from English to French

and Kinyarwanda and Swahili,

After I had silently endured

the fat man sitting next to me

whose sleeping head

intruded on my shoulder;

After I had listened to

self-improvement mp3s

until my mind went blank,

watched the TV on the plane—

at first the serious drama

then action adventures

and then just sitting in my seat

knowing that time would somehow pass;

After I had struggled

my way through customs,

and waited till my suitcase

which I worried would be lost

finally showed up,

having been so heavy, so packed

with emergency provisions,

it was unloaded last,

After Eugenie from the embassy

took me to my hotel;

after Joseph carried my suitcase

to my room

up endless flights of stairs

(how did he do it?

he was so small,

and it was so overweight);

After I checked the room

to see there was hot water,

and decided to lay down

and unpack later

and took an ambien

to get to sleep;

After I learned to say

yego—yes, and oya—no,

and ufite amazi—do you have water,

After I looked out the window every morning

and saw the houses

on Rwanda’s thousand hills;

After the desk clerk learned my age

and began to call me father;

I realized I was there.

Carl Auerbach’s work has appeared in The Baltimore
Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Nimrod International Journal,
Third Coast, and many other journals. Three of his poems
and a short story have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
He lives in New York City, where he has a private practice of
by Carl Auerbach