Monday, August 9, 2010

That Noise in the Waiting Room (Poem)

That Noise in the Waiting Room

More than once
it happens —

the outbreak —

a tittering "sorry"
at the particular mangling

of the name calling,
after some late arrival

rushes the front desk
half-clothed, making heads

and the registrar's brows
rise like orchestra players

paying homage
to the guest conductor

just as the papers shuffle
and time moves off

schedule and you want
so badly to think

that's just not funny.

The waiting does it
to the nerves

makes the pulse mock
the tension, the room's silence

imploding before a needle
uneasily jabbed

into tapped-on skin
finds its mark

and the hand releases
the fist and the mask

fitted not to bruise
sends oxygen on its way.

The face and the body
do it

together, involuntarily

under certain conditions,
not faked, so naturally

it's called the best
medicine no one gets


making 15 muscles in the face
contract and your upper lip

to lift and you to gulp breaths
and water to pool in your ductwork

and your mouth to open and shut
like a set of teeth set loose

on Intake's counter, the security
window closed to the sight of looks

reddening, moist, the more air
fails to get in.

It's so quick
in the time you hear it

it's gone and disappeared

its punctuation effect
contagious, lighting up

the whole brain
every 210 milliseconds —

right hemisphere and left cortex,
the frontal lobe, sensory processing

in the occipital lobe, the motor
sections — and 30 times more likely

when you're not alone

and the joke's good enough
and the operation, the third already

that morning, is the success
you've sat listening for.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this poem for the Tuesday, August 10, Blog Carnival sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time.

The Blog Carnival is a biweekly online event open to anyone. Participants write on a one-word prompt or topic. This week's one word is "laughter".

At Bridget's place you'll find a list of links to all of the contributions, which are posted throughout Tuesday and often through to the end of the week.

The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here.

The prompt for the next Blog Carnival, on Tuesday, August 24, is "children". 


katdish said...

Would it be incredibly immature of me to admit that I was hoping there would be some reference to flatulence in that poem? Yes? Then I admit nothing.

Red Letter Believers said...

Hospital poetry? A new frontier has been broken

Anonymous said...

once, when went i was going to an acupuncturist, it was on the second visit, i think, that she put the needle in a place in my back, that just made me laugh!

i thought it pretty strange, but, she assured me that it happens in that spot.

Glynn said...

Somewhere I read that it takes many, many more muscles to frown than to smile. And smile is what I did when I read this.

Louise Gallagher said...

I smiled too! And... yup... I was kind of thinking maybe possibly a little bit of 'fluff' would erupt!

So glad you didn't need potty humour to make this poem shine.

Maureen said...

Honestly, everyone. I did not think "that" when I was writing this poem.

Just goes to show how different people interpret things.

Monica Sharman said...


"imploding before a needle
uneasily jabbed

into tapped-on skin
finds its mark"

reminded me so vividly of all the times those gloved fingers tapped, and the needle jabbed but did NOT find its mark. They kept trying and trying, probing the needle when it was already in there, still unable to find that vein.

You say so many truths here, Maureen. Thank you again for your insights.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Loved the ending, especially (it sort of quiets down in a very compelling way).

What is it about waiting room poetry...I of course thought of:

Kathleen Overby said...

I felt the nervous elevator silence. Uncomfortable titter waiting to release the tension. I love words that make me feel 'there'-wherever that is. :)

HisFireFly said...

"The waiting does it to the nerves"

Yes, yes and YES!

Anonymous said...

Love the poem, love the comments.

I learned... and smiled! Thanks, Maureen.

Laura said...

This is amazing, Maureen. Catching up on your poetry. I am lifted in the doing...