The Waiting Room

Jones, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Aug-13-1996


The speaker evokes the isolation and boredom of the sick as they sit in a waiting room, "pretending to read." The poem comments on the mystery of life and death and the patient's need for the physician to bring healing, hope. As people sit in the waiting room, the speaker thinks about their isolation and wonders what they might be thinking (a man who is "wondering what disease / is buried in his body/ like a treasure"). The darkness of the afternoon is dispelled by a nurse turning on a lamp, "but the examining room is dark / as the doctor's eyes, hidden / behind the strongly focused beam / shooting out from the silver circle, / . . . coming / out the center of his head."


This poem gets at the isolation sickness brings and the sufferer's hope for healing. The image of the doctor with the beam of light at the center of his head yields to multiple interpretations. Is the doctor sinister with his or her "hidden" eyes, or is he or she a figure of hope? In its focus on the isolation and loneliness of the ill person, this poem might be nicely paired with W. H. Auden's Surgical Ward (see this database).

Primary Source

Country of Air: Poems by Richard Jones


Copper Canyon

Place Published

Port Townsend, Wash.