The Waiting Room

not double hospital gowns
rumpled large as samurai robes
nor forced laughter  stretched smile
nod of reassurance to herself

can hide how diminished she seems
shrunken like an aged child
by fear of the scalpel
and anesthesia’s ability
to render thoughts
down to essence of smoke

every surgery threatens death
promises less   though we pretend
it’s an obstacle not a change

in the cafeteria’s atrium
I stare at dew
speckling the overhead
solarium windows
green-shaded lights reflect
on the side glass
before a grassy courtyard
studded with trees
and benches
in the early morning sunlight

fear removes all makeup
glares to sight loose skin
wrinkled hands hanging pouches
under arms and eyes
skin grows lines and moles
thickens torsos
looking at you
I find a reflection
of my own future

I cannot explain why
it doesn’t matter
our train is not chugging
out on a shiny track
but lurching on rusted rails
back to the station
we tumbled into each other
outside the club car
while searching for coffee
something to force us
awake in our lives

the track is loose
with missing spikes
and the tunnel much closer
than we want to believe

I stroke smooth
your wrinkled face, pull
your shivering form close to my warmth
and we dance in the waiting room
to songs of our own making

Richard Krawiec has published 2 novels, a collection of short stories, a book of poetry, 4 plays and numerous stories, poems, essays, and feature articles. He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the NC Arts Council. He teaches writing to people in homeless shelters, literacy classes, housing projects, and elsewhere.  He teaches Beginning and Intermediate Fiction Writing as part of the Carolina Courses Online program for UNC Chapel Hill. He is the recipient of the 2009 Excellence in Teaching Award from UNC for these courses. Check out his website:

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