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No, wait, really

after ‘Wait’ by Galway Kinnell


She comes to his office in such despair at the end

of a relationship he has to ask her not to do anything rash

but to return in the afternoon, when he pretends

he knows what he’s going to say.  It’s a slapdash

answer to her problem and somewhat misses the point.

But, in the meantime, he has an appoint-


ment.  The need to drop everything — such tedious

panel-beating of buckled grammar,

filling logical potholes in the curious

epistemology of the last-minute crammer,

smoothing the wrinkles from last year’s lecture notes —

he assumes we’ll take for granted; what he wrote


up later, in that piratical way poets perfect

of secreting someone else’s hurt

on some unmapped, deserted prospect

of a page sounds so useless to him, so old guy, so curt

— an ‘everything will be all right’ counterplot.

Well, what then? If not that, then what?


is what he sweats over all afternoon, pencil tucked

behind his ear; what he wants to really share

is his hope that she hears not some wisdom plucked

from the pages of his desk calendar; not even that someone cared

a little, but cared enough to put a line break there

 between two stanzas, the repetition of certain words just where


they will have most effect; that she might discern

how the patience to make a whole line of that one imperative

might prove to be a guide through life’s upturns and downturns.

And he doesn’t hear the sound of someone’s submissive

knocking.  He doesn’t hear, as his muttered revisions overscore

the urgency of someone knocking in the empty, darkening corridor.

Slant Poetry, v37.2 Fall 2023

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