The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Mercedes Lawry

In the Waiting Room


The man in the wheelchair is a comma,

his back in a permanent curve, his body

under siege, his voice a raspy lilt

as you might hear from an old-fashioned toy

underlined by gears and switches.


He is chatting up a storm with his carer,

a young man who laughs and cups

his head as if it was a baby’s tender skull.

James, you’re so funny, he tells him.

After a while, I can make out the words,

cobbled and coiling from his hunched lungs.


He’s here for a brain scan and the two

ping-pong tease about what might be found

in there. Knock, knock. Then he begins to sing

“Pop Goes the Weasel” accented by the bell

on his chair and joy pulses in the room.


How all the discourse of resistance is rooted

in this gentle man and his urge to sing.



Mercedes Lawry

At the Light Rail Station


At the ticket kiosk, I’m stymied

on how to get my senior discount – prompt,

prompt, go back, re-prompt. I have a brain and yet

no instinct for these things. Machines

baffle me like bad metaphors offering no thread.

From the corner of my eye I see a woman approach

babbling nonsense from a fevered mind.

Better to ignore, I think, and keep at my task.

Her tone is pleading, not for money,

but for understanding, which I can’t give.

When the ticket falls, I grab it, move

quickly toward the stairs, with only an impression

of mismatched clothes, a white wool hat.

Her words follow me like a smoke trail

as I swallow my guilt, although god knows

what I could do for her, god knows

where she’ll sleep or find mercy.




MERCEDES LAWRY has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Harpur Palate, Natural Bridge, and others.  Thrice-nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she’s published two chapbooks, most recently “Happy Darkness”. She’s also published short fiction, essays and stories and poems for children and lives in Seattle.



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