The Poetry of Mary K O'Melveny


José, 5, carries with him a drawing of his father, whom he has not seen since they were separated upon arriving in the United States from Honduras. —“The Daily,” The New York Times, June 20, 2018. "And the president’s order does nothing to address the plight of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s 'zero tolerance' policy. Federal officials said those children will not be immediately reunited with their families while the adults remain in federal custody during their immigration proceedings. "      —The New York Times, June 20, 2018



Some of us are always trying to be kind.

Even in smallest ways.  Even as the known

world self-destructs around us, shards of

optimism falling from the sky before we even

have a chance to look up to see what has

shifted us off our comfortable axis.


I’ve got a chipmunk problem in my yard.

The tiny furred creatures have popped up

everywhere, sending showers of dirt

into the air like it was Yellowstone.

I cannot kill them even though I want to.

They will not leave even though I have raged


at them, insulted them and their ancestors.

My neighbor brings a have a heart trap

so I can remove them kindly.  He baits it with

peanut butter.  Soon the trap has a frightened

occupant.  I cannot bear to look out for fear

of crying.  The prisoner is soon relocated.


The trap is replaced.  A new chipmunk takes

the bait.  He too is repatriated to a new territory.

Capture and repeat.   The metal trap looms larger

each day as an unending array of innocents are

tempted by creamy nut paste.  Soon enough,

I begin to worry about babes left behind in tunnels,


about mothers and fathers  grieving for lost children.

One day a chipmunk plants itself on my deck

and looks in through the window.  My kind self

huddles behind the blind.  I will not make eye contact.

This is the humane way, I say to myself, even as I begin

to imagine each trapped rodent wearing an orange


jumpsuit as interrogators gather nearby with pen

and paper waiting for the inevitable confessions.

One night, the trap is sprung, its detainee freed from

house arrest.  I am thrilled.  Then I learn that a bear

has likely done it.  Probably thanked me for the easy meal.

Now I am lost in my worst fears.  There is no kindness in my yard.


How could I have thought otherwise?  This is how

it always begins.  Good intentions vanishing

like some dying star,  rationalizations

reverberating across celestial centuries.

Turns out it is our unwavering belief

in our self-righteousness that is the trap.




"KINDNESS" was first publsihed in

THE NEWVERSE NEWS - June 22, 2018




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