You enter surgery. I wander off
to find the waiting room. I try to sit,
back propped. Computer on my lap, I scoff
at headlines, ask too soon, “What time is it?”
Not nearly late enough. I sign my name
and number on the nurses’ log, then head
downstairs for food and drink, the route the same
as earlier but in reverse. Instead
of getting takeout, I plop down at some
small table, look around me as I eat.
Few visitors appear as grim or glum
as I expected. Done, I leave my seat
to someone else, go browse the gift shop, pay
respect to portraits, find the chapel, pray.
About the Author
Jane Blanchard divides her time between Augusta and Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia. Her poetry has been published in journals, magazines, and anthologies around the world as well as online. Her two collections—Unloosed and Tides & Currents—are available from Kelsay Books.
About the winning poem, she states, “This sonnet describes my own experience during my husband’s operation at Saint Mary’s Hospital (Mayo Clinic) in Rochester, Minnesota, in November 2016.”
Jane Blanchard’s unforgettable poem, “Meanwhile,” is a moving portrayal of someone often overlooked—the surgical patient’s loved one left to wait or wander the halls of the hospital.
We do not have to agree with the aphorism, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” to envision the waiting room as a metaphorical foxhole. Blanchard’s understated tone captures the sense of aimlessness and desperation of those left waiting for loved ones under anesthesia.
This is a quietly sophisticated poem composed without a thesaurus. Many readers will reach the end without realizing they’ve just read a textbook Shakespearean sonnet. Like all skilled formalists, Blanchard camouflages the poetic scaffolding of the poem so that it doesn’t detract from the poignancy of the last line. It reminds me of the last line of another sonnet, “On His Blindness,” written by John Milton nearly 400 years earlier: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”