by Joan Colby

Your number is 213. The color-coded chart
Says you’re now in the O.R. This procedure
Is supposed to take an hour. I read
A book by Lorrie Moore, not as good
As Birds of America, but good enough
To distract me from the minute hand
That crawls the clock rim stiffly as
An artificial limb.

Two hours pass.The nurse says they’re still
Working on you in recovery. I don’t like
The sound of that. More time goes by
Like the slow fall of snow outside
The impregnable windows that overlook
The geothermal lake designed
As environmental paradigm. You were
Nervous; the defibrillator was turned off
The anesthesiologist explained in order to avoid
Unnecessary shock. It’s never zapped you
In the years since it was installed
But there’s always a first time.

So many multiple concerns
At your age. I drink more coffee.
I’m on page 141. The baby sitter
Dissects her unsatisfactory world.
A world of waiting. On TV the new pope
Is blessing the congregation of the faithful,
Blessing perhaps the lapsed or lost.
St. Francis blessed the birds and wolves,
Spoke to Sister Moon in the
Canticle of the Sun. I don’t believe
In anything which is to say I’m not spiritual
Like my daughter who believes yoga and tofu
Will save her, that tea leaves can foretell
The new job, her marriage, her oldest son’s
Chosen major. Her thumbs nervously drumming
The I-Phone.

So there is nothing I can pray to
As I wait, turning the pages
Where the story leaks out like another world
That offers no more comfort than this one.

IMAGE: “The Clock” by Karl Knaths (1951).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010).One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News,and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize,  Properties of Matter (Aldrich Press, Kelsay Books), Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press), and The Wingback Chair (FutureCycle Press). Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press. Visit her at