A Year of Waiting
by Mary O’Brien

A year of clicking and box checking,
for groceries we eat without savoring.
Heat them up, pour them over.
Half the order back at the store,
I am still waiting for someone to notice.

A year of no oil changes or tuneups.
Endless postcards from the mechanic.
Put air in the tires and postpone the carwash.
The ice cream is melting in the back seat,
waiting for us to notice.

A friend sends a photo from a year ago.
You’re wearing clothes you don’t recognize.
You work in a bedroom filled with stuff,
and arrange nice things to disguise the clutter.
Hoping no one will notice.

Your partner stopped shaving his beard,
You stop plucking those wild chin hairs.
On video calls you sincerely hope,
no one will actually notice.

The neighbor leaves his porch light lit.
It shines into your bedroom all night.
You want to hide longer in your dark space
Longing for someone to notice.

You stop worrying about the big things,
because there’s nothing you can do.
You fret endlessly about the little things—
only so much you can take.
But will anyone really notice?

You post on social the sunrises and sunsets,
later and later, now earlier and earlier.
Watching the cycle unfold and then fold again.
Will we only remember what we have not noticed?

PAINTING: Timeless Spring by Kazuaki Tanahashi (2011).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written during the year of COVID when the very minutia of living became overly prominent in many people’s lives, including mine. I wrote this one morning before dawn instead of the more urgently needed shopping list for contact-less pickup at the supermarket. I felt I needed to record how small and petty parts of my life had become, and the helplessness that is triggered by long-term waiting.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary O’Brien is an environmental writer and installation artist. Her writing evolves out of her engagement with place and community, and the research she develops for environmental art installations. Her nonfiction works delve into ecological loss and community resilience. O’Brien’s public art installations can be seen at watershedsculpture.com. Her essays have been published in Field to Palette, Stanford University’s MAHB Journal; The Solutions Journal; and in Women’s Eco Artist Dialogue. Find her on Facebook and Instagram