At the Outpatient Clinic

By: Andrea Hollander

Featured art: Free Clinic by Jacob Lawrence

The young woman in the maroon hat
is tapping her left foot as she stares
into her empty lap. She’s kept her coat on,
its collar of fake fur buttoned at her throat.
The woman’s face is pale—blanched is the word
I was about to use, but my mother’s name was Blanche
and I don’t want to think of her, the way at the end
she grew so white and thin, her hair so black
I thought someone had rinsed it with ink. She lay so flat
beneath those hospital sheets, I thought at first
the bed empty, that they had taken her away.

Now a man I didn’t see before gawks at me,
his eyes earnest, green, and stern like my father’s.
“Angela,” he says. “No,” I say, but he keeps staring.
I’m saved when his name is called,
and he turns his head the way my mother did
that last time when I stood at the foot of her bed,
her name on a blue card inserted
into the slot beside the door.
She stirred when she heard my voice,
then turned away.

My mother’s head of ink-black hair
on that bleached white pillow,
her name typed out in block letters
on one of those little blue cards.
What do they do with them

Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011, after more than three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she ran a B&B for 15 years and served as Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Her 4th poetry collection was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her 1st won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Numerous other honors include two Pushcart Prizes and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts.

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