Poetic License: Poet in-Waiting
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”