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 photos

of dead children that get me.

Graduation caps and gowns,

white lace wedding dresses.

Sometimes a baptismal frock

or first communion suit,

hair slicked back, eyes bright.


Pop-up shrines swell. Their

faint sheen pulsates against 

the 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  

packed with totems and tributes.


A lachrymatory

might rest on every 

corner to capture our

tears backed by drumbeats from

funeral marches, prayers,

bagpipes,Amazing Grace.  

Or will we finally 

grow tired of our ceaseless


weeping, staring at

lists of our latest victims,

ringing our hands like

a chorus of bell-pealers.

Can we act to banish

memento moris,

to celebrate instead

those who are still with us? 


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