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.