The Poetry of Mary K O'Melveny

NEW VERSE NEWS - A Brief Geography of Goodbyes




Everyone who knows grief as it settles onto chests,

humid as a jungle, thick as fog on a heath,

understands that goodbyes can be a gift. A brief

cushion to ease the long emptiness ahead.


As I write this, my friend’s husband is dying

in hospice care in New York. He surrendered

after waging a fierce battle with leukemia that,

for a merciful time, he seemed to be winning.


Each arc of loss beams wider than celestial skies

on clear summer nights. His young grandchildren

gather at a grassy hospital garden to say goodbye.

Siblings fly from far-flung homes to do the same.


My sister and I stood at our mother’s bedside

watching lights on monitors fade and fizzle out.

Without evidence of audibility, we still sang to her,

believing emigration is aided by a sound track.


In Gaza, bereaved households are less blessed.

A fine whine of rockets the only warning before

a family’s cardamom tea and künefe splatters

like a Pollock canvas across living room walls.


In Delhi, breaths come to a close after failed searches

for oxygen – it seems there is no price that can be paid

for air though grieving loved ones would mortgage

their own lung capacities if currencies allowed.


In North Carolina, police kill a man as he tries

to drive away from death. His story forms a pattern

recurrent as an Escher etching. Each morning’s only

question – will this day mark memory’s final day.


COVID focused attention toward microscopic gestures –

the tensile strength of touch, the graceful creases

of a laugh line, the thrill of whispered thank yous.

Such gifts may allow us to survive our diminishments.



"A Brief Geography of Goodbyes" was published

in the New Verse News on May 21, 2021.

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