We sit in silence,
family, yet unknown
to ourselves and each other
in this hothouse of fear.
A telephone connects us
to the staff who care for
our father inside.
We wait, shifting
our tight limbs on the vinyl sofa.
We have waited for days.
Sometimes we fall asleep there,
sometimes we go home.
No one watches the television
that flickers day and night,
a heart beating.
In the corner, a machine grinds its teeth
to make bitter coffee
that suspends us without sleep.
We forget our meals and to change our clothes.
We have no way of knowing
if he is getting better or not.
We sweat our worst thoughts
and grip hands, stunned
by the suction of the vortex
that brings us to the waiting room.
We learn the lessons of flesh and blood,
blood line, life line.
We are moths banging against the lighted window.

Susan Sklan is an Australian now living in the Boston area. She is a social worker and published poet. Poems have appeared in Folio, Gulf Stream, Kalliope, Pleiades, Sojourner, Soul-lit, Lilith, The Centennial Review, other journals and anthologies. Her poetry chapbook The Letters is published by Main Street Rag, 2023.