The Manchester Review
Vona Groarke
Four poems
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“Waiting Room”

McGonagle’s. A full house. They’ve been through
‘Shut the Door’ and ‘Blueprint’ off Repeater,
and I’m stage-side, half-drunk, hell-bent.
I know all the words. Brendan’s feet are level
with my teeth, and wearing the very boot
I’d first noticed on my kitchen floor
when the Fugazi poster flung itself,
head-first, at our lino, mostly turning
a pure white back on us apart from a stray fist,
one laced-up Doc. That was yesterday.
Now I’m holding out for ‘Waiting Room’.
When it kicks in, it gets me back to six of us

with pens nicked from the reception desk
and pages torn out of a diary keeping tabs
on the remains of ’77. We were killing time
with word games, what ‘oesophagus’ or ‘remove’
might disclose, when the nurse came in.
On his own, not twenty feet from where
we were shuffling ‘pass’ and ‘sag’ and ‘over’,
his skin was the same as mine, not even cold,
his hands were fists, his eyes furiously shut.

I was twelve. I said to myself, I’m no more alone
than any of us.
No more alive, no more unlikely.
It will take years (Years!) to get to where
I’m just about to throw myself off-stage,
trusting people I hardly know to lock arms,
break my fall. I am a patient boy. I wait.
I wait. I wait. I wait.
Someone’s shoulder
will ram into my cheek; my blood spray
onto Michael’s jacket and Lou will dip
her thumb in it and suck. My fists hurt.
Jeannie is mouthing something to me
like some baby shrike, all riff and thorn.
I close my eyes, unpeel myself, let go.