Aren’t they all the same?
Everyone together, yet not;
everybody wanting in, or out?
Can to wait be an active verb
when it’s so crushingly passive?
Is it more like to be or to scream?
Some waiting to be taken, others for them
to be sprung so they can hightail it.
Anticipation’s braised to incarceration.
Televisions you can’t turn off.
Magazines you can’t read.
Germy toys in the Kiddie Korner.
At the vet’s the schnauzer whimpers,
getting a big whiff of euthanasia.
In the dentist’s you worry what they’ll find.
At the lawyer’s it’s the price of time
plus the sadness of settlements and her
joke sign: How Much Justice Can You Afford?
The DMV’s all waiting room, all the time.
In the Social Security Office nothing gets
cleared up and sugared children test limits.
Waiting for the principal, the loan officer,
the auto repairman, the HR hatchet,
the end of the endoscopy, the biopsy result.
After four hours of bearing witness even
the Emergency Room traumas turn routine.
Waiting for help, waiting for the bad news.
Walls with corporate art, models sprawled across
Harleys, misty landscapes that never soothe,
all the horrid, hard, but matching chairs,
the empty water coolers, coffeemakers
on the fritz, the impregnable receptionists,
the psychiatrists’ overthought décor
and the still air, thickened by anxiety,
rotting into rancid ennui where life feels
suspended but could be in the balance.
Dante thought up a vestibule neither in nor out
of Hell, a space set apart for those who
lose their intellect’s good, who take no sides,
earning no infamy and meriting no praise.
Beside these, eternally stranded in that infernal
salla d’attesa, even a sinner might feel proud.
Editor’s Note: Just when you think this poem can’t find another example of interminable waiting, it does. The form functions as a sort of waiting room, too—tercets of time, not quite stretching into Hell.