In the Waiting Room

by Greta Bolger
The Waters
First Place, July 2011
Judged by Tyehimba Jess


My daughter says I want to hold a baby
as though she senses the ache in my own body
to feel a featherweight, feather-haired being
resting with all trustingness in my scarred arms.

Holding onto life can seem as certain as the sun,
even as the chill world presents hard evidence
to the contrary. Up above, the ornate ceiling tiles
provide a silent dialogue of X’s and O’s —

O like a baby’s hungry mouth, X like a mother’s
cradling arms; O like the endless passageway of long life,
X like the iron gate that abruptly slams shut,
the shock like a gunshot, heart like a target.


I like the way this poet is interested in such an intimate moment, a time in a hospital after some tragedy. I think the best decision was the move into the space of the ceiling, where they bring us the image of the tiles we have all seen before, the religious reverberation of O, each refrain recounting a story of loss that hammers home in the last line. --Tyehimba Jess

  • February 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      My Beautiful Body
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Chickadee
      by Allen M. Weber
      The Waters

      Third Place

      Foliose
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Only the Good Things
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

  • January 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      consider crossing
      by Allen M. Weber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Blast
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Third Place

      The Elucidating Imbecility
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Love Letters
      by K.R. Copeland
      The Waters