The Waiting Game

A great poem by Timothy Staley, another participant in the Five Powers Poetry workshop this summer in Santa Fe. Thanks, Tim!
The Waiting Game
Vikings never ask, are we there yet? instead, they scan the horizon, armored hips
            pressed against the railing
It’s not Russian roulette, or regular roulette where a tiny white ball jumps the track
and slowly sinks in a marsh of bile
Vikings try to sneak up on you but they’re noisy with their helmets rattling
against branches, not to mention their laughter, almost always overdone
It’s true, one day the Operating Room nurses will take your baby down a far-off hall,
where she’ll get smaller in their arms until they turn a corner and assemble
around her to open her belly like the bow of a Viking ship opens the sea
It’s nothing where you see the end like the line for a roller coaster,
but more like waiting for the nurses to leave so you can down
another bourbon
And you go to sleep with waiting and rise with it curdled on your tongue
Or bracing for the Mississippi to crest thirty-two miles from shore
Or waiting for a B positive liver to be offered to Texas Children’s Hospital,
            in Houston, room 1222 where your loved ones are down under
three inches of bile
Several nurses and doctors will tell you it’s a waiting game and games,
you like games
I knew a Viking that was afraid of water
Vikings, like anyone, love that rush they can’t stop, that pressure up form their hearts
into their heads, before they sob
Don’t worry, you can write instead of crying
It’s Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East—which is mostly in your mind—and about
not giving up on God the moment He seems to have disappeared
like the moment his characters delve into the gorge of Morbio Inferiore
It’s all the waiting God controls the odds of, like waiting for a tornado’s
hot and cold to split, and by now you’re wishing the phone would ring
with a B positive liver offer for your daughter, but in your heart
you doubt it will, because God has something left to teach you
Has to make you suffer or accept through some hardship, you can’t even imagine
or worse, there is no God, just a pile of syringes, a bayou of bile, and of course,
that brackish breeze
When Vikings don’t have phones, they use screaming or fire
It’s not waiting for a hangover to recede or a taxi ride to Rothko Chapel where maybe
under the onus of art you’ll find God
It’s not Leif Erikson but The Wreck of Hesperus, one’s daughter bound to the mast
            in a hurricane
Will your faith make it? do you trust these are divine dealings? no answer?
are those eagles you see circling above her hospital crib, are they here
to claw out her liver, will it grow back again?
It’s not Eastern medicine or Western or talking to the trees or crossing the street
when you’re not supposed to, it’s a butterfly in a blizzard and a satellite
looking down, it’s a hospital room under an ocean of bile and the nurses
laughing at your spine like a dorsal fin swishing, breaking the surface
There was one Viking who was very polite, though in the evenings he found a darkest
corner of the ship to listen himself cry
If only your heart was broken, how easy life would be
I’m not sure if it’s like waiting for love, I can’t say because I’m in the thick of it,
            like Leif Erikson before he went pro, I’m franticly scanning for land,
waiting for winds, chased by a salt lens three miles wide, when the water runs out
and a grey bank of clouds shrouds my vessel and acts as baby’s breath
in the bouquet of my sinking

5 responses to “The Waiting Game

  1. this is densely, fiercely beautiful. thank you both for bringing it here for us to read. blessings on all of you and yours.

  2. Powerful phraseology.

    Are you okay, Emily?
    Is Ronan?!?


  3. Bravo!

  4. I’m still here, praying my prayers and wishing peace for you. This poem is amazingly strong and affecting. Words I’ve never had to think, nor feel. I will reread this, I know. samm

  5. The more I read and re-read this, the more it speaks to me and the more I uncover. Really amazing. Thank you for sharing!

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