“Machines are down.”
Muted voices, blank faces,
rows of citizens wait.

For license renewals
bureaucracy rules.
No worker says sorry.
No coffee, water, cheer.

Numbly, the people sit,
Old, gray with cane and hearing aids,
Young, cell phone clipped to belt,
Mother with whining daughter.

All need the privilege
to drive, to speed away from here
to go on with life, chores, meetings,
to be home.

Each one assigned a number.
Anonymous voice calls out, “29.”
I quickly check my slip.
Only three more, but how long?

Deep breathing calms.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Hard chairs, dull hum, cold air,
shuffled feet, vacant stares.

“30.” Old man’s knees lift slowly,
crippled from long sit.

“31.” Young father smiles,
blurting out to all,
“I need to pick up my kids at school
in just 15 minutes. Might make it.”

“32.” Exaltation!

Stone-faced clerk, dulled eyes cast down,
mutters greeting. “Forms.”
An hour of my life is gone.
Hers, too.