“Well Waiting Room” by Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer

Well Waiting Room
From The Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs, a collaborative installation by Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer and Cheryl Wassenaar; photo by Richard Sprengeler

You go to the room on the right     You go to the mute blue cube     that is distinctly unevocative    that nothing can divide     The magazines     the puzzles     cannot interest you a minute     They cannot entertain away you from the glass view of other children     Some of them don’t seem sick either but they are     Be glad for the clarity because let’s not talk about things as if they’re vellum when everything is inked clear     You know something’s wrong with you     You have been on both sides of this barrier     You have been small and dangerously fevered     You have been the child vomiting down her mother’s back     You have been cooled by a stainless basin and sent home undistressed     You have been examined while being examined     Indeed, you have been scrutinized      You have been frank     You have been snide     You have been dishonest about your body when your body has been lobbed against you     And the details of your body have been catalogued     You have been weighed and calipered     You are larger than the other children, now     You are hardly a child, anymore     You are large and off the charts     and your doctor frightens you     about incremental weight gain     or pubic lice     or toxic shock     or scarring     or tearing     or contagion     or masturbating     as if that’s a cure     as if that’s the only other option     And no one ever says anything      No one ever talks about need     or the spikes to your system     or about sadness     or about sadness     No one has tried anything uncompartmentalized   No one has tried to do anything but contain it     You know     I can’t help it     You tell her that     No one has done anything out of the ordinary


Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer is a poet and installation artist in St. Louis. She is the author of Cleavemark (BOAAT Press 2016), and her poems and art have appeared in Best New Poets, Georgia Review, Harvard Review online, AGNI, The Offing, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Colorado Review, Fence, and elsewhere. She frequently collaborates with other artists, most recently with Cheryl Wassenaar on the installation The Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs, which opened this fall at the Des Lee Gallery. Her work can be viewed at criticalbonnet.com.