Jeanne Bryner

At The Heart Doctor’s Office, I Take the Last Seat

Mid- morning, leather chairs the color of crushed grapes,
my husband’s first check-up after his fourth stent.

Musty smell of a grandfather’s sweater, a woman
digs a Kleenex from her walker’s bingo apron.

The only thing missing is a yawning cat. I grab 
a seat by a young couple, their dreaming newborn

and the all-legs, antsy child beside them. Her chatter’s
like spilled marbles, School starts this week. I ask her age 

and grade. Her Daddy’s name’s called, his woman’s eyes beg;
I nod yes, just leave her here.  We both know the next room’s 

a broom closet and her man’s ashy as a cellar mop.
The pretty nurse closes her door and four souls vanish. 

The pixy girl says, Daddy needs a new heart, for his heart 
attack was really big. (She draws a circle with twig arms). 

And did you see Mommy’s picture in the paper? Yesterday. 
Page one, between her brothers. They robbed the donut place 

where she works. Now they’re in jail, and I live with Daddy 
and Janie.  My husband sits by the window, his hands folded.

Is that your baby sister?    Oh yeah, that’s Susie. And Janie, 
she did not know the baby was getting born. She thought 

she was peeing her pants.  What’s in your sack?

A children’s book I wrote.          Would you like to see it?

You wrote a book?      Yes, and I’m taking two copies to the library.
I like the baby turtles dancing with their shells, but is the turtle

really marrying a mouse?
 Yes.  Well, did you paint the pictures?    
No, I have a friend.  She’s an artist.     I have a dog, but not no more. 

See, my flip-flop’s broke right here.
Her auburn braids shine;
freckles pepper her nose.             I am just done with second grade.

Why do you wear those big shoes? Don’t you like flip-flops?

She coughs, and it’s the phlegm of black dust.

I remember her father’s rumpled hair, Janie’s slack
belly slung over gapped jeans, the baby, how they

reappeared looking like they’d fallen down a well.
I might have taken the girl like sack candy from its shelf, 

bought her blue paints and clay, read her stories,
watched her play, but somewhere she has a dog, 

and it will rub its neck raw tugging chains,
it will bark for her every night.


Jeanne Bryner was born in Appalachia and grew up in Newton Falls, Ohio. A practicing registered nurse, she's a graduate of Trumbull Memorial Hospital's School of Nursing and Kent State University's Honors College. She has received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council and Vermont Studio Center. Her newest book of poems is Early Farming Woman from Finishing Line Press.


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