In my grandfather’s hospital, the ghosts are transient.

If only because they are retracing their steps—they were alive

here last, or lived here first. So much of his life was spent

here: peering into the intimate clockwork of each person.

As a child I would watch my father reset the clocks

inside of people, as Papang did. The job requires the sureness

of hands. I have no such certitude, and I am almost never

on time. But who is always so sure? The day after my brother

was born, Papang’s heart gave—he collapsed on the bathroom floor.

I imagine how my father must have fumbled for the vital

signs, watching the seconds run out of him too quickly, standing witness

to how life beckoned in the birthing room next door and death

passed in this one, leaving my father to become a father

on his own. Everybody trusts doctors, nobody trusts them

to die. I will never know Papang, except in memorial

parks and hospitals, the portrait of him in our living

room, and his name. A thief tried to steal the brass lettering of it

at the clinic entrance, but it is safely kept

in my father’s own name, and my brother’s after him.

In the office I am only an observer; words are no good

for saving lives. Only, sometimes, for comfort.

I imagine Papang must visit the child born

in the other room, and so the rest of us. Nowadays,

the clocks in the hospital all work. My brother reads

x-rays, raises his own son. My father’s hair is white.

When I am called, late as usual, I squeeze through the patience

of patients filing across the waiting room, which is sometimes fuller

when people bring their ghosts with them. Sometimes I find myself

checking my watch too frequently, hoping there is no emergency.