The Poetry of Mary K O'Melveny



Graffiti-layered buildings

flow past our train windows.

They line old storefronts

like giant Crayola boxes – 

raunchy pinks, belligerent blues, 

blazing yellows. Fattened letters 

and giant numbers wink slyly

at transient visitors.


I wonder what masterpieces 

these colorists might produce 

if they held easels and brushes?  

If they had toured museums 

where Kandinsky, Corot 

or Caravaggio had taught

them about layers, light 

or depth?  Would energy from


these worn away walls sizzle

less or pulsate more?  Do these

masters of magical markers 

suspend time and place as 

their liquid neon spills forth 

onto crumbling concrete 

and corroding cinder blocks?

I want to know what happens 


in the moments while each

psychedelic mist spills out 

like a rainbow in search 

of solid ground or a firefly 

before its flameout?  As each

artist reaches up, aerosol

cans spewing spindrift,

are their sorrows suspended? 


In those fleeting fragments

of time before the luminous

colors adhere, do they wonder

how daylight audiences

will greet their fiery 

hieroglyphics? Do past

legends of loss metamorphosize

in their minds eye to majestic 

murals and panoramic portraits?

Might one of these virtuosos

scribbling sagas on hardscrabble 

structures become an oracle of 

oil sticks, like Jean-Michel 

Basquiat, hoping someone

will decipher their masterpieces 

before it is all too late?



Amtrak.  Passing Philadelphia   



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