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Poetic License: Poet in-Waiting

By Staff | May 3, 2017

I wait impatiently in the doctor’s office

with other patients waiting patiently,

wondering why a three o’clock appointment

means never before four thirty,

wondering why this doctor plays

with my time so loosely,

wondering if this imprecision

extends to his surgical incisions,

and to his medical decisions?

Are his minutes worth

that much more than mine

that I should waste mine waiting here

with only Motor Boat Monthly,

Health Trends in Honduras

and two- year- old People magazines to read,

waste them waiting for my name

to be called by the receptionist

so I can follow her

through the maze of inner cubicles

until she finds an empty one

asks me to sit on the table

and take off my shirt,

performs her two specialties,

tells me that the doctor will see me soon

and disappears for the rest of the afternoon

to prepare the bill of 785 dollars

she will hand me

when I leave the office at a quarter to six.?

Inside the cubicle,

still waiting impatiently,

I wonder how many patients

with their shirts and clothes off

there are in the other cubicles

waiting the wait within the wait,

dignity diminishing minute by minute.

Is the doctor with one of them

or is he on the phone with a colleague

in alleged consultation –

or has he not even arrived?

Are some of them ill and frightened

of the dreaded news they have waited

for all their lives but hoped never to hear?

These questions posed by the poet in me

keep tempting me to walk the narrow corridor,

shirtless, and drop in on the other waiting patients,

an urge that the too patient patient

still left in me finds increasingly hard to resist

from the impatient patient growing in me,

I slide off the table,

move toward the cubicle curtain

but enter at last the doctor

who picks up my chart

to find out my name

and retrieve his diagnosis from three months ago

which will now help him to ask questions

only a skilled physician knows how to ask.

The old faithful stethoscope gives cursory comfort.

The stab and probe of the plastic gloved finger

proves once again that a little pain

must always precede reassurance.

I study his face for telltale expression.

He tells me that everything is all right,

but I must lose weight and walk at least an hour a day.

He renews my four prescriptions,

summons another specialist to draw my blood

and says he’ll see me again in three months.

Young and attractive Countess Dracula

succeeds after two misses,

tries to Band-aid over the fang marks she made,

shows me the way to the desk

where I pick up my bill and prescriptions,

make an appointment within this calendar year

and I am out of the office in under three hours!

Happy to be healthy and alive,

but still unhappy

about having had to wait so long,

I drive home and wonder

if I should invite

my doctor to the poetry reading

next week at Barnes and Noble.

I could tell him it starts at seven o’clock

and make him wait until eight thirty.

At seven forty-five I could send

a trained poetry student messenger, my para-poet,

to call his name and lead him through the book racks

until they reach the poetry cubicle.

There she could tell him:

“I’m sorry, Doctor. The Poet has been delayed

by an emergency epiphany that required deletion,

compression and resolution of ambiguities.

As soon as his poem is resting comfortably,

he will be with you

so that you can hear him read it.

In the meantime, here from the shelves

for you to enjoy while you wait

is a copy of his latest collection of poems,

‘Epics Written in the Doctor’s Office’,

which you may note he has dedicated to you.

And, oh yes, there is no charge for this first visit.”

Would he wait? Or is poetry to him

not the matter of life and death

his art and craft are to us,

the matter of life and death

that he can count on

to make his own healthy living

from all our waiting and trust.

But if it were and if he were willing

to wait for as long I could bear him to wait,

if he were aching for that dose of different truth

and relief from the inoperable malaise of spirit

that only a poet can prescribe,

then I could step up to the mike at eight thirty,

smile at my doctor-poet-in-waiting

and begin to recite the poem he has just inspired:

“Thank you for being patient, doctor”