Syracuse, NY 13210
Volume 10, 2010
Appointment at the Doctor’s
Howard F. Stein
She tries to hold her life together
With baling wire and duct tape.
Sometimes it stays, other times
It unravels and breaks apart.
She and her mother—a grocery store
Cashier and a housekeeper—
Are the sole providers.
They can’t afford a car,
And get around town by asking
Relatives for rides and taking the city bus.
It is a blustery winter day;
Her youngest of three kids
Is sick with high fever, cough,
Aches, kept her up all night.
She called the doctor’s office
In early morning and was worked in
Their schedule today. Her mom
Stayed home and watched
The two other kids. She bundled
Up her little son and walked
To the first bus stop. They waited.
The bus was late—like it was sometimes
Early, you could never count
On the schedule. Then there was
The transfer, and waiting for
The second bus. At last they walked
From the bus stop to the doctor’s
Office, more than an hour late
For their appointment. The receptionist
Scolded her for being late; so did
The nurse after her. They called her
Difficult, unreliable, inconsiderate.
Didn’t she understand what a schedule is for?
Someone in the back of the clinic
—a doctor, a nurse?—
Overheard the clamor, and said,
“Let them stay. We’ll work them in.
You never know what some people
Have to go through to get here.”