Inventing a New Language
by Lara Dolphin

if Eskimos have 100 words for snow,
then there ought to be as many words for waiting
like the kind of waiting
when you’re standing in the wings
your heart racing
ready to enter stage left as the curtain rises
versus waiting for shrimp eyes
water bubbling at around 160 degrees
to reach rope of pearls
so you can enjoy a robust oolong
and neither seems to compare with Mandela
waiting an extra week
to be released after 27 years in prison
in order to give his people time to prepare
and what could be more different from a child
waiting to open birthday presents
than Hamlet waiting to kill Claudius
both waiting but not the same thing
and queuing up for Wimbledon
or to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa
hardly seem the same
as a mile-long line for emergency food
or years spent for a foster child to find a home

I’m waiting for a word that means
I’m waiting for you to apologize
and for a word that means
I’m waiting for my Amazon delivery
I am still waiting for a way to describe
how I’m waiting to be kissed
or how we’re all waiting
for the world to address the climate crisis
so until there’s a word to describe
how I’m waiting for the laundry to finish
as opposed to how I’m waiting
for the world’s poets to stand up to power
I’ll still be here waiting

PAINTING: Waiting for the Bus (Anadarko Princess) by T.C. Cannon (1977).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Perhaps if we can more precisely communicate what we mean, we can distinguish between everyday waiting, joyful anticipation, and the patience that becomes complacency.


Lara Dolphin is an attorney, nurse, wife, and mom of four amazing kids; she is exhausted and elated most of the time.