Notes of a common waiting room

The woman with one breast is friendly
She jokes about feeling lighter
We nod grimly

Gallows humor
Palpable energy shift from 20 year old gamer wearing graffiti hi-tops, and 60 year old with deflation in her eyes
The ravage of time and effect, painted on women of different shapes, scars like badges of honor except when they’re not


The old lady is marked by a blue gown to our uniform pink
She exudes weariment without lifting her head from its downcast slump
Her limbs look like they have been pickled and left in hot Texan sun
She has an old ring on her wedding finger
I want to say something
But the lump in my throat and her shuttered aspect stay my hand

Instead I nod to the New Yorker and tell her there’s a free seat
Nobody really wants to sit

They want to run
Be anywhere else
Anyone else
I miss the days they just told you that you could go
Says the tall woman with a burgundy hair band
The woman cooked in black garb might belong to a cult
She had an accent and glowers

She says she drove from Eagle Pass because they don’t have good medicine there

Simmering rage in her balled lacquered fists
The hiss of some impossibly expensive machine out of sight

everyone meets eyes over masks, the unsaid being
Is this good medicine?

We play occidental musical chairs

The magazines are gone because of the virus, we hide our faces behind our fabric hoping for modesty that has long fled

Nurses walk their daily steps in the shiny lino corridor, their hair gleams like peacock feathers, they are harried but kind eyed

I get a young woman tech who has quiet jazz
She talks of wanting children. Her brother is sterile. She’s afraid to get tested.

I urge her to try. Thinking of how not long ago I stood in her slightly less comfortable shoes
Imaging a future

How they unfurl and then dry up and close, ready for the rush hour drive back
Mascara lines running like train tracks on masks of horror

A scrawny woman with platinum hair asked me how to do something on her phone
etiquette is said to save us
Not in the time of Covid, I think

A high school had blossomed in the pit of the waiting room
Some have been here two hours
They divide solemnly into temporary allegiances
Some like the loud mouth
Others roll at the waiting and click their dry tongues
It reminds me of paper flowers put in water

Her grandchildren are visiting. The mute girl in the corner looks young enough to be one

I ache for her fledgling fear
Knowing

None of us are safe
From the words
Come and discuss your findings with the specialist

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

odd for the child

to fear drowning

when his life now is so long

stretching like taut ribbon in sun

he imagines like plain moths who drown themselves

in light emanating from dark

his own lifeless body buoyant on chlorinated pool

why he thinks of his death is anyone’s guess

perhaps the morbid humor of an intelligent mind

or the broken mosaic of life, beginning its downward cycle

once he asked his father, if the river levies bust

will I know I am dead before I am drowned or

will I wake in heaven first?

His father, a man who only worried about

whether his mistress was going to leave him for a younger man

did not spend time assuaging the boys fears

and he grew into a frightened soul who possessed

no mistress to sooth his night terrors

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

maybe not this year

as she palpitates her breast for the forth time

crossing nervous fingers over heart, half prayer half search

malignancy her code red, flashing with every terrorizing headline

who invented social media? she mumbles beneath her breath

it was so much easier when we didn’t have access to all the maladies, we’ll one day die from!

Her hands cramp in late Winter cold, immediately she thinks

MS, MD, Fibromyalgia, the beginnings of CJD, maybe Parkinson’s

isn’t that a tremor? Or just too much coffee?

Her jittering nerves remind her, we are unable to compute

the exact day, hour, minute of expiry

all we know is our eventual death is an assured event

it’s the torment of those who are self-aware yet still ignorant

spinning in place, every migraine a brain tumor, every

sudden sharp pain a sign of pancreatic cancer, when a friend

discovers he has Multiple Myeloma (and he never touched asbestos his wife decries!)

she flicks through medical journals online searching for similarity

it’s not her wish to die, but a desire to live, control fate

keeping her on false tender hooks like owl without prey.

His life has been one of quiet dread, each day he inspects

the parts of him most likely to give out, checking his irregular heartbeat

the soft pounding of worry causing it to skip, feeling for swollen glands

skin cancers, lumps and bumps different from the day before

he knows his is an obsessive ritual, even as it soothes imagined

terrors, he sees the absurdity of living in fear bound to a wheel

perpetuated by hours spent researching ways of expiring

did you know you can develop throat cancer from invisible HPV

who knew love was such a sentence? He tells his eye-rolling neighbor.

If he counted the hours he took from his life

contemplating how he will die, when, what it will resemble

it’s quite mad

yet when he is lying in his childhood bed alone

impending dread crawling up his flannel spine

all he can hear are the waves calling

and then, a strange longing in him occurs

urging him to be done with bloody charades

join the onslaught and be carried out to sea

along with every child’s nightmare

and the stifled hiss of adults pressing their knuckles

closely to anguished mouths

for the pale mint waiting room seems

entirely too silent

an earie unsettled fog about it

waiting …

It can kill

Almost sun up

the tinder box within my chest

is scratched free of ignition

I have nothing left to light

against encroaching darkness

for so long, it was only you

who kept me burning, fed the diminished

flame within

now, cold weather comes hunchbacked

like a visiting relation who has

no regard,

streets are emptied, as ducklings for feasting are

short-lived in their joy, for we live in a climate

spoilt with her bounty

the people proclaim Winter their enemy

hiding inside, till blessed sun returns

to bake streets into their usual direct lines.

I have always loved the cold

for it is somber, serious, it does not apologize

for not laughing or smiling toothily for a photo

the cold is an adult, a survivor

and my warmth is now swept out

into the street to nourish next years

growth.

You have left me ransacked, weighed with grief

or rather, I permitted it

with my need to divest you with

my self keeping

it was you see, a way to continue

waking up in the morning

brushing hair, scrubbing feet

clean of their midnight chase into darkness

where if I stayed long enough

I might find no way out.

I used instead, the succor of your regard

for me, a diminished thing in a shiny coat

of false expectation, as hibiscus bloom

just before frost, as if daring it to

kill

knowing, one day, the flint

would no longer strike alight

the flame no more catch

and we’d be without fire, without warmth

without familiarity or loyalty.

As those who feel and then feel nothing

ransacked void with wilted affection

the chill of their galloping regard

worse than any Winter storm

for knowing your hater is surely

a greater pain than strangers who harm

just for the merriment of it.

I know you. I see the emptiness in your eyes

these years have rinsed out slowly like a series

of rogued pinches and double-exposures

I understand, too well, just as

I see my own senseless defeat

lain on unflinching wet ground, not moving

for the cold has washed over and she is

frozen in her private grimace.

Some of us can carry on

without the light of another

I have long existed without harmony

safety, even sanity, but I cannot lose, no

I cannot bear to, the surround of you.

If it comes then, you will find me

a memory in a long story, a footnote to something

larger than us all, lost in yellowed paper and indistinct

photos of past, growing longer with each yawn

and outside of us, that tree will still stand

in 200 years, we will have children born and

die here on this land, where the dead are

forgotten to we who roamed once, through the ravages of

time and her pitiless relinquishment of mercy.

It is the way, of mortality, even love may be mortal

in how she closes up sacrosanct and inviolable like a flower

denied light

refusing to bloom again. You say

nothing because your mouth is

filled with ashen excuses, and moving on and

what you’ll do next; it is a tempest, a fever

beneath your skin, lending you the fugue-state to

live again, for you are from your mercurial ancestors

a kind of people who always find ways to

endure, as if doing so, will make you more

memorable.

I then, I am not like you, nor ever have

possessed, the penchant for survival you tout, it doesn’t

matter much, we are all going to be

soot and lost words before long

the race, the belief we matter, is just

grime on our sleeves as we pass

through. I have seen a world

without me, as I have witnessed a life without

you, they are all echoes of each other

betraying the faith I had never quite built

knowing you would leave

observing in your eyes before you were aware

the emptiness of regard, how softly we skim

life’s abundant surface, like we hardly land

at all. At times it does not feel like it can

be real, this ache, this movement toward

self-destruction, surely this is not how it ends

and yet, years become decades and still

we find ourselves, curled into a ball, waiting

out the cold, a frigid breeze coming in

beneath the door, reminding us, no matter

how much we may like the Winter

it can surely kill.

Waiting for you to read my mind

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There is

An abacus

Counting sense and nonsense

On the high cheeks of a woman

Whose done saying what she’s told

The photographer

Catches her unease

In the shape of her mouth

It would taste of raspberry, that’s obvious

At night, the crystal of your half filled glass shines

Ice melting slow like peeling clothes

Staring at naked ghosts with their hands up

Sexing on dirty carpets with clean minds

Watching flashbacks of regrets and pleasure

Idling trucks melting snow with their hung over breath

If you were a pill I’d O.D. on your potency

Skipping heartbeat, chasing down roads, your diminishing form

You left one day intact and never returned

Sending a doppelgänger

A confidence artist, in your stead

Who told me; I like your eyes they’re untamed

With a paper tongue and windscreen brow

Wiping away the rain, that endlessly fell

We must get used to death

In each pause, in the rhythm

I touched your skin

And thought of new England apples

The first taste

Belief comes last

Use your imagination

Can you see me?

I’m standing waist deep

Waiting for you to read my mind

Like you did once with the alacrity of an gymnast

In the throes of passion

Braile

Morse code

Signs and wonders

Photos over exposed

Ringing phones in the night

Knowing the destination in your fingers and finding

Without map or lights switched on

Blacking out cries

To be found

Oh god

To be found again

By you

Wait always

Not once

Even then

Did i waiver

As our time slipped

Rabbit footed

Over polished surface

Gathering sheen

As a girl bent in task

Seems

To sefuse 

sun

Not once

Even then

Capturing direction of air

In prayer

Not once

Even then

Our palms set

against the other

Refusing

To slip

Not once 

In sickness or regain

As night stitched with drowsy stars

Will always remain 

Not once

Loosening the bond

Hung on moon light

Casting glow

Always