In the Waiting Room

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Why should I be my aunt, or me, or anyone? What similarities-- boots, hands, the family voice I felt in my throat, or even the National Geographic and those awful hanging breasts-- held us all together or made us all just one? How--I didn't know any word for it--how "unlikely". How had I come to be here, like them, and overhear a cry of pain that could have got loud and worse but hadn't?

The waiting room was bright and too hot. It was sliding beneath a big black wave, another, and another. Then I was back in it. The War was on.

Andrea Gibson - September 30 | The Waiting Room | Omaha, NE

Outside, in Worcester, Massachusetts, were night and slush and cold, and it was still the fifth of February, Used with permission. Materials for Teachers Materials for Teachers Home. Poems for Kids. Poems for Teens. Lesson Plans. Teach this Poem. Poetry Near You. Academy of American Poets. National Poetry Month. American Poets Magazine. Poems Find and share the perfect poems.

The Waiting Room

In the Waiting Room. At the Fishhouses Although it is a cold evening, down by one of the fishhouses an old man sits netting, his net, in the gloaming almost invisible, a dark purple-brown, and his shuttle worn and polished.


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The air smells so strong of codfish it makes one's nose run and one's eyes water. The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up to storerooms in the gables for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on. All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea, swelling slowly as if considering spilling over, is opaque, but the silver of the benches, the lobster pots, and masts, scattered among the wild jagged rocks, is of an apparent translucence like the small old buildings with an emerald moss growing on their shoreward walls.

The big fish tubs are completely lined with layers of beautiful herring scales and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered with creamy iridescent coats of mail, with small iridescent flies crawling on them. Up on the little slope behind the houses, set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass, is an ancient wooden capstan, cracked, with two long bleached handles and some melancholy stains, like dried blood, where the ironwork has rusted.

The old man accepts a Lucky Strike. He was a friend of my grandfather. We talk of the decline in the population and of codfish and herring while he waits for a herring boat to come in. There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb. He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty, from unnumbered fish with that black old knife, the blade of which is almost worn away. Down at the water's edge, at the place where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp descending into the water, thin silver tree trunks are laid horizontally across the gray stones, down and down at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear, element bearable to no mortal, to fish and to seals. One seal particularly I have seen here evening after evening. He was curious about me. He was interested in music; like me a believer in total immersion, so I used to sing him Baptist hymns. Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug as if it were against his better judgment.

Fugazi-Waiting room

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear, the clear gray icy water. Back, behind us, the dignified tall firs begin.

Bluish, associating with their shadows, a million Christmas trees stand waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones. I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same, slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones, icily free above the stones, above the stones and then the world.

If you should dip your hand in, your wrist would ache immediately, your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn as if the water were a transmutation of fire that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame. If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter, then briny, then surely burn your tongue.


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  • It is like what we imagine knowledge to be: dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free, drawn from the cold hard mouth of the world, derived from the rocky breasts forever, flowing and drawn, and since our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown. Elizabeth Bishop Visits to St. Elizabeths [] This is the house of Bedlam. This is the man that lies in the house of Bedlam.

    More by Elizabeth Bishop

    This is the time of the tragic man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a wristwatch telling the time of the talkative man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the honored man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is the roadstead all of board reached by the sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the old, brave man that lies in the house of Bedlam. These are the years and the walls of the ward, the winds and clouds of the sea of board sailed by the sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the cranky man that lies in the house of Bedlam.

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    Waiting room

    This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward over the creaking sea of board beyond the sailor winding his watch that tells the time of the cruel man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a world of books gone flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward over the creaking sea of board of the batty sailor that winds his watch that tells the time of the busy man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a boy that pats the floor to see if the world is there, is flat, for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward waltzing the length of a weaving board by the silent sailor that hears his watch that ticks the time of the tedious man that lies in the house of Bedlam.

    These are the years and the walls and the door that shut on a boy that pats the floor to feel if the world is there and flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances joyfully down the ward into the parting seas of board past the staring sailor that shakes his watch that tells the time of the poet, the man that lies in the house of Bedlam.

    VALENTINES DINNER 14.2.19 Menu

    This is the soldier home from the war. These are the years and the walls and the door that shut on a boy that pats the floor to see if the world is round or flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances carefully down the ward, walking the plank of a coffin board with the crazy sailor that shows his watch that tells the time of the wretched man that lies in the house of Bedlam.

    The Moose For Grace Bulmer Bowers From narrow provinces of fish and bread and tea, home of the long tides where the bay leaves the sea twice a day and takes the herrings long rides, where if the river enters or retreats in a wall of brown foam depends on if it meets the bay coming in, the bay not at home; where, silted red, sometimes the sun sets facing a red sea, and others, veins the flats' lavender, rich mud in burning rivulets; on red, gravelly roads, down rows of sugar maples, past clapboard farmhouses and neat, clapboard churches, bleached, ridged as clamshells, past twin silver birches, through late afternoon a bus journeys west, the windshield flashing pink, pink glancing off of metal, brushing the dented flank of blue, beat-up enamel; down hollows, up rises, and waits, patient, while a lone traveller gives kisses and embraces to seven relatives and a collie supervises.

    Goodbye to the elms, to the farm, to the dog. Shot on an iPhone X, Victoria filmed her time in waiting rooms, surgery and chemotherapy. The Waiting Room is an unflinching portrait of the blood, sweat and tears of cancer treatment. Victoria makes visible the often invisible sickness, fatigue, tears and hair loss.

    At home, she filmed with her teenage son as they came to terms with how single-parent family life was transformed by a year of living with cancer. It challenges the cultural myths that surround the disease and puts the language of illness under the microscope. She is a writer, artist and director who has been experimenting with the frontiers of documentary and creative technology for the last two decades.

    She also wrote and directed TEXT ME in , an award winning interactive arts project which created an evolving and living archive in which users are encouraged to collect, curate and share stories from their digital past. The Waiting Room is accompanied by a VR Project that delves even deeper into the experience of living with cancer.


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    Although Alexis has a life-threatening disease, she provides palliative care for animals.