At the desk, a couple signs in.
She is slight and wears a plaid wool coat; he is thin and tall.
His right hand shakes, but slightly.
A blustering and friendly cop barrels in the room from a treatment unknown.
We all smile. We know him at least from TV.
A man with white hair waits alone. His eyes shift as each person enters,
or leaves for treatment. He doesn’t make the effort to read
last year’s magazines.
There’s always a curious one. Today, a lady of grandmother’s age.
Do I know you, she says to her neighbor, who shakes his head and moves slightly rightward.
I see you at Kroger’s, right, she says to me, but I don’t.
My side is really hurting; I wish they would hurry, she says, mostly to the tiled ceiling.
We are each wrapped in worry.
Then the door from outside swings open and wind blows in a grinning young man.
He is tall, and his skin mahogany, a red scarf on his head above brown eyes and
Where we in the room watch each other for signs of worse maladies, the youth watches only one:
the old woman in his arms.
He carries her. He has her up high above all of us – he is tall. She is slight, and grey-haired, and
More a burn't umber.
More a burn't umber.
As they wait to sign, I remember you in my own arms, how I could only see you, and how you
I was fear-filled those seven years/you were brave, and together we were mostly alone on the cold trips south.
You knew sharp pain and you knew skewered looks (shame on them),
and you built a tall bridge over to the land where cartoons, superheroes and good humor reside.
We waited in a rocking chair when you were tiny and I sang You are My Sunshine.
We waited in a blank room after they told us of sorrows and pain to come.
We waited in many an emergency room along mountains dark and icy, and for test after fruitless
If I had known then, I would have….But would I have? We sit in waiting rooms to fix the
hurts, to hear news that must be good, to have someone in white make
you or me or the old man feel better.
I wouldn’t have let them hurt you as much. I wouldn’t have let them do those tests. But I would still wait with you, wait with you, wait with your chubby fingers in mine, mine shaking. You never shook.
A phone rang, and the tall young man turned his head to us. We were all watching.
Was she his mother? Surely.
Did he always carry her? We say yes.
Did she weigh on him? No more she than he. They were of one. The skin on her face faded and her long fingers grasped his warm, worn jersey. The news waiting her – Does she know? a shallow pool of tan on her cheek.
Warm brown on brown in a room of planned lilacs and soft music. No sorrow there. As we sat in our inward lives, the youth held the old woman in his lap, and loudly they chuckled about things at home, and what he might cook for her tonight when they returned, so tired. Chicken and dumplings, and some kale and honey biscuits, she whispered, but we all heard and laughed with both of them.
We each were called, in time. Her time was coming, but he carried her. A young man, big boned, wide smile, eyes on a slight bird who needed him that day and tomorrow, too.
You too were were called in time.