Waiting amid
sparse pairs
of the patient —
reading, knitting,
heads down —
I glimpse
fluttering hands,
sparkling ripples
of conversation
rising above the sea
of floral fabric chairs.

Eyes straying
from magazine,
keeping head down,
I watch the exchange,
and I wonder.

What is the sign
for anxiety?
What is the gesture
for fear?
How do the hands move
to say mammogram?
(Do the fingers flinch
at the sign of lump,
or does the thumb
trace a smooth curve,
sliding down an uninvited,
invisible intruder?)
I imagine a jab
from a finger
to sign for biopsy.
What is the sign for pain?
Does the hand make a “c”
and leave it hanging in the air
to represent our worry?

I watch the couple;
their hands tick faster
than the clock’s.
Their signing is comforting;
their conversation intimate.

I raise my head from my book,
for both of us.
I study their silent dialogue.

I watch for something.
I look for a sign of hope.


Robert Villanueva is a multi-award winning former journalist and author whose short stories, poems, and essays have been published in numerous print and electronic journals. A few of those journals are The Maine Review, The Binnacle, The Summerset Review, Trillium Literary Journal, and Contemporary Rhyme. He has a collection of his short stories is forthcoming from The Heartland Review Press. You can find Robert online here.



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