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Mary O’Brien, Patience for Intervention

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Patience for Intervention (Knoxville, Tennessee)

by Mary O’Brien

I see the earthen mounds,

you see the river parapets,

impressions in the rifle pits,

tracks in the redoubt.

A borrowed lexicon does not soften the injury.

Joined a war they didn’t understand

on their southern soils.

This is their land, and is mine, and ours.

Is it the land we love so,

or of place that we are fond?

Trenches in the shape of men,

The battle never played.

Timbers rolled to the river

cracked open these southern soils.

The vine has an easy climb here.

I see giant topiary

You turn away.

Imagine a remedy?

We know better.

No one plays in Kudzu.

A century and a half of memorializing,

house beams grow into nurse logs.

Curb cuts disappear under invasives.

Can we give it back?

Swap need if we dare, for retreat.

Remove our influence.

Our middens will sink

under earth’s own detritus,

suffering a slow revenge.

Mary O’Brien is a writer of non-fiction and poetry as well as an environmental artist. Her writing evolves out of her engagement with place and community, and the research she develops for land art installations. Her non-fiction works delve into ecological loss and community resilience. O’Brien’s public art installations can be seen at Her essays and poems have been published in Field to Palette, Stanford University’s MAHB Journal; The Solutions Journal; Women’s Eco Artist Dialogue journal, and Silver Birch Press



Listen to Mary O’Brien's SOREN LIT interview:

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