The Poetry of Mary K. O'Melveny



Once-jaunty ribbons mix

with plastic flowers and

long-dead petals, old gold

Mardi Gras bead strings, a

stuffed animal or two,

a few small coins, pennies

mostly, some heartfelt notes

and faded framed pictures.


The detritus of grief.

It is usually

the pictures that get me.

Graduation cap and

gown or white wedding dress.

Sometimes the baptismal

frock or first communion

suit, hair slicked back, eyes



Pop-up mementoes rise

everywhere in this

great gloom of crushing loss.

Doleful dolmens standing

in for the bereaved who

must attend to details

of death even though they would

prefer to lie weeping here.


It won’t be long, one thinks,

before thoroughfares will

jam up from these rising

monuments to our great

misfortunes.  Highways, street

corners, schoolyards, cafes,

churches, concert halls all

filling with totems and tributes.


It won’t be long before

we just tune it all out,

the steady drum drumbeat

of funeral marches,

bagpipes, anthems, prayers.

They will slip away to

some past life where the dead

mattered to everyone,

where names had powers to change us.         




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