The Waiting Room and the Aftermath

Time compressed a lifetime to a single moment, drawn slender, nearly warping the second hand, yet each escaping stroke pounded heavy, a muted hammer against the polished anvil of time’s progression.

The waiting was over. Wringing hands and silent prayers were done.

You entered, unwelcomely wanted, through an angel’s open door. It was June. Iowa June.

The air clung thick. Soundless single syllables just heard beyond the pounding blood of my ears, beneath my mother’s panicked hopeful breathing, against the ironic tapping of your white Florsheim shoes, covered in blood.

Our suspended sanctuary broken with your nod, and respectful question. Yet our vigil held a moment longer, well over the precipice. “I’m sorry,” you said, “he didn’t survive.” All point of reference, gone. Asking, “What!?” You repeated yourself scratching at an explanation. My mother’s orchestral voice raised in tension, sweet timbre of violin strings, disbelieving, could only sing, “Oh no! Oh no! I will never hold his hand again! Oh my God! Oh no!”

To a pinhole view the world resolved. In haunting hush my brother’s sweet tears were all I heard to comfort a life’s long loss. The room devoured, swallowing breath in its labored breathing, Jonah in the whale. Details smeared in fresco, glossy, distorted. Every step, every word relaxed along the corridor, penetrating, piercing my battled grasp to cling on. You there, browning blood rooted in the piped white stitching. Your words, soundless.

Disdain revolved my iron neck, begging to turn away, only to see her there, slanting through hell’s door; a pig in squalor, a nurse in white, makeup of a whore. Piercing the fleeting glimpse of any dream with, “You need to gather the belongings. Come with me.”

Fleeing you, this trap, I followed her. Fat, short, squat legs pounding busy hallway tiles; purpose of a jack hammer. Spinning, burning in overload through hospital denizens, features stretched, some kind, some lost, some loud… An eon’s flooded blur slammed prostrate to clinical white doors. Another trap to open.

“It’s all in here”, she said, thrusting upon me the brown frayed grocery bag, clasped in sparkles of Swingline precision, his name in black, still wafting a Sharpied rush to the end. Would it ever end?

Heavy armed, I slowly turned to face an eternity lulled to desperate lows, stretching it’s Einstein’d moments illusively, forever before me, pressing mass upon mass, gravity surreally bending the tears to flood.
In memory of the waiting room and the aftermath, the day my father died in surgery, June 17, 1985.
Written for d’Verse Poets Pub –


Filed under Memory, Perspective, Poetry

29 responses to “The Waiting Room and the Aftermath

  1. Pleasant Street

    I am so deeply touched by this. Your memory is still so vivid. I could weep for that paper bag

  2. Thirty years later we can still feel the pain. Great use of imagery and details to convey your feelings. Your poem makes me want to shout at that nurse.

  3. I understand why these memories would stay with you so strongly. The nurse sounds so unfeeling when she talks about your father’s belongings…as if that is what is most important now! Vividly intense writing.

  4. You have written without sentimentality a very poignant memory. I could see it so clearly.

  5. Oh, Jay. This is such a powerful piece.
    This line is brilliant:
    “Time compressed a lifetime to a single moment, drawn slender”

    Your memory here is so vivid…I was there with you and your family. Some losses never really fade. I’m so sorry. Beautiful write.

  6. Em

    This is so good. I enjoyed it immensely.

    “You entered, unwelcomely wanted” … Wow. That’s strong.
    I love this: “To a pinhole view the world resolved. In haunting hush”
    And this: “pressing mass upon mass, gravity surreally bending the tears to flood”

    Such stunning writing, Jay.

  7. Oh Jay.. I love how you have filled this moment with such details.. From the sound and how we followed you to pick up his belonging. What a devastating end. It seems that no details is left out…

  8. Jay, this is so intense, the pain just raw emotion. Your attention to detail, the clarity of your sensory descriptions–all of that brought us right into the room with you, into the emotional reaction.

  9. These are such sad places but you write about it so powerfully. Some details stick which seem small but have tremendous impact as when you are handed the belongings and your mothers words, so moving.

  10. I now recall the time when my husband discovered that his dad died ~ You brought the details to life that I had to blink away the tears ~ My mother in law crumbled in that moment too ~ Powerful and intense writing Jay ~

  11. Such good writing…you had my attention from start to sad ending. This clear capture of the time of your father’s death is just overwhelming with its attention to all the details from the browning blood in “piped white stitching” and the description of that nurse! The shock, sounds and emotions are so fresh as if it happened yesterday. I’m very sorry for your loss, Jay.
    Gayle ~

  12. Clinical
    death knows
    no feelings
    of history’s
    so hard
    to live
    so hard
    to die..
    iN clutches
    oF hospital cOld Rooms..:)

  13. Irene J Zaidi

    I can see through your eyes, feel the pain of your heart and soul. The finality of losing your Father. Viewing the pain in your beautiful Mothers eyes and her spirit in pain. The pain never really leaves ones heart. It’s a tremendous void. Beautifully stated, the intensity….of that transition of your Dad creates an memory.

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