Poetry Archive

Number Sixty-four

I watch her step quietly
into a room where
the wounded and the
self-absorbed take
stock of their lives
feel the weight of pain
catalog their complaints
silently or not so
chase boredom with
months-old People magazines
or trace the veins on
the backs of their hands
as though solving a mystery.

She takes number sixty-four.

She sits in a red vinyl chair
one leg crossed over the other
torn jeans stretching over
a bended knee, white
threads grimacing as she
absently rocks her foot
to a song only she can hear
strands of long silky
brown hair escape from the
ponytail she quickly
fashioned this morning.

"Number sixty-one.  Sixty-one!"

She glances vacantly at
the receptionist then
curls one long strand
of hair with her index finger
twirling it over a fine
cheek, an aquiline nose and
a long lush brown eyebrow
she stares at the floor
lost in her own story
casual beauty undisguised
by the patina of dirt on
her brow or the
tarnished veneer of
chipped nails or her
pot-holed tennis shoes
one of which is untied.

"Sixty-two.  Come with me please."

She cants her head
mouthing words at the
empty white walls
singing her sweet song
to no one in particular
gazing across her life
into the middle of next week
when the black stains
like an archipelago
on her neck and arms
will have faded to
jaundiced yellow
and prickly rose
and the cadaverous blue
stripe across her lower back
will have lost its bloom
and the choices that
bruised her will have
grown generous in the
forgetfulness of denial.

"Okay.  Sixty-three.
The doctor will see you now."

That is me
she is unmoved
as I walk past neither
father nor brother
she smiles serenely
as though amused
by some private
but there are journeys
no one should take
songs no one
should sing
numbing verses
that chill the voice
into a catastrophe
of silence.

the doctor asks how I am
fine, I say, just fine
better than some

then why are you here?

why am I here?

I was sitting
in your waiting room
I tell him
composing the valentine
that number sixty-four
will never receive.

                   Terry Bacon


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