What did Elizabeth experience in the waiting room that made the moment there so memorable?
In the poem, Elizabeth is sitting in the waiting room of a dental practice. While her aunt is being seen to by the dentist, Elizabeth keeps herself occupied by reading a National Geographic magazine. She finds herself so fascinated by images in the magazine depicting an active volcano, 'Babies with pointed heads,' a 'Dead man slung on a pole,' and women with 'horrifying' breasts whose necks are wound with wire, that she hungrily reads the magazine 'right straight through.'
The experience of reading such an extraordinary magazine is seconded only by the experience of hearing her Aunt Consuelo's exclamation of pain. At first, Elizabeth dismisses her aunt's cry as par for the course for a 'foolish, timid woman.' However, she soon realizes that she has also exclaimed in a similar manner. Elizabeth doesn't really know how to reconcile the foreign and unsettling images she has seen in the magazine with the equally foreign and unsettling experience of being in a dentist's chair. Her exclamation echoes that of her aunt's. She experiences this bizarre and surrealistic 'sensation of falling off the round, turning world,' with both her aunt's eyes and hers 'glued to the cover of the National Geographic, February, 1918.' Each is experiencing her own mystical initiation into disturbingly foreign terrain that is as startling as it is alarming. The Picasso-like surrealism present in the use of imagery highlights Elizabeth's heightened state.
The experiences above are memorable to Elizabeth because it leads her to ponder life's great questions of existence, the interconnection of humanity, and one's place in the world.