“Waiting Room” by Spencer Smith

Spencer Smith


The woman next to me is rocking
In a spindly chair that does not rock
Forward and back again and again
Her belly bunching up and flattening out
Her eyes focused blindly on a spot
Three feet below the blaring television
Her lank gray hair closing and opening
Over her face like faulty theater curtains

On the other side of the stained carpet
A goateed man is conducting a fierce debate
With himself on the state of political America
His hands drawing graphs in the medicinal air
His dark brows jumping at each other
Like fighting gamecocks and beside him
A female form with her face fully eclipsed by
People Magazine nods politely at intervals

In the corner a boy of six or eight hard years
Methodically pounds a toy car with his bony fist
A partial smile etching his angular pale face
His mind possessed by enemy bombardment
Or meteorites or rampaging dinosaurs
His left shoe untied and his hair a tuft of weeds
I surreptitiously scan the occupied chairs
In vain for a genetic similarity

Then the room comes to abrupt attention as
A steel-haired man appears draped in antiseptic blue
His shiny black shoes oozing prosperity
The television blanks and the goatee is silent
The woman stops rocking and the boy stops pounding
The magazines are closed and the man stops in front
Of me and he is not smiling and he says nothing
And the gray woman pats my knee and I am cold

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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