In the Waiting Room

Penelope Nelson

No one here.

Three bottles of water.  Seven glasses.

A man’s voice? Him?  Someone laughs.

Speechless woman in patterned tights gives a tight smile as she goes into a room.

Rather desperate art. The Aboriginal painting is a screen-print. 

I sit under the china plates. They are nice enough plates, too small for the main course. Why frame them, I wonder. Perhaps it’s a test? Tick A, B, C or D, to illustrate your current state of anxiety.


I could be plate A. Definitely blue, not too sure what’s happening or what to do next.


But I’m more like plate B.  You won’t see the cracks unless you come very close.

I wouldn’t mind being plate C, still a bit blue, but clear, sparkling and full of vim.

Plate D. Is this Joe, the all-seeing eye, blue but the blue of clarity?

Plate E. This has to be Michael, a spiral galaxy and a steady state all at once. But not even galaxies hold their pattern forever.




Penelope Nelson is the author of novels including Prophesying Backwards, and the memoir Penny Dreadful. Her poems have appeared in literary magazines and a couple of long-forgotten anthologies. She has two adult sons who both live on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. She lives in Sydney with her husband Michael Kesteven, an astrophysicist.

In March 2020 she founded the shared blog balconyfever.com 

Late in 2020 she consulted a clinical psychologist, Joe, in a Bondi Junction tower block, for help with anxiety and low spirits. “In the Waiting Room” was sparked by the framed plates in his waiting room.

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