The Surrealist Waiting Room

Yvan Goll, Surréalisme, Manifeste du surréalisme, Volume 1, Number 1, October 1, 1924, cover by Robert Delaunay

to wait, without pleasure, for routine or for chance.
—Joyce Mansour
Practical Advice for Waiting

The parrot bravely turns pages
for a Minotaur. His subject is body
shaming. A stiff, red chess piece
smokes in the corner, ignoring signs
while a young man keeps talking
in his sleep. He’s been at it for hours.

You arrive. Your appointed hour
is rushing on like the last page
of a whodunnit. No one is talking
but the sleeping boy. You squeeze your body
beside the Minotaur. Should you sign
in or just wait? A too-sweet piece

of music bleeds from nowhere. A piece
you once played—that day all hours
folded like chairs and good design
failed. A silent nun enters, leafing pages
of an account book. Her stiff body
turns like a clock hand. The sleep-talking

boy goes silent. Dreaming, he knows talking
to nuns is taboo. You wait, piecing
their stories together—the lathe-turned body
of the chess piece is unscarred. The talking
voice speaks Swiss-German. Somewhere. Pages
from a case study turn. There’s no sign

of a doctor. You sigh and resign
yourself to this empty wait, talking
to no one, silent as a page
in a Carmelite court. This broken piece
of your day refuse to turn into hours.
You repeat word from a lost body

of ancient lore. You all know nobody
will call your names. The no smoking sign
now says “Wait.” You’d give it an hour
but your watch stopped like the boy’s talking
reflex. You breathe in a very brief peace
before a nurse strides in, reading pages

of names. “Please start talking, then sign
part of your body. You may each have a piece
of candy. The hour’s over. I will now turn the page.”