Patients Waiting

By Teresa Burns Murphy

Inside the hematology oncology waiting room,

fragments of felt in blue,

green, and purple—

cool-colored fabric

cut to form

birds, trees, and butterflies

stitched onto banners

hung high on alabaster walls above

the hardwood floor of ash.

Clinical cheer aims to quell

our flickers of fear.

At the craft table,

a volunteer hands a patient

bright beads to string

on a wire. A young woman,

thin as a wisp of smoke,

shifts in her seat.

With each ragged breath,

her face reflects a fight

familiar to us sojourners:

Terror rages against hope.

Fury flies from her febrile eyes

as she lifts her gaze toward the pearly clouds

beyond the skylight.

White coats sashay down hallways.

Doors open and close.

A nurse calls my name.

I follow her to a smaller room.

Vitals taken, she leaves.

My doctor, an expert in

the treatment of blood cancer, arrives late

as usual. I wait

for him to trace the trail

this fiery fiend is apt

to blaze inside of me.