Poems from Mary K O'Melveny

Fission (Or, the Day I Discovered My Wife - June, 1988)

Radioactive fission, where the center of a heavy element spontaneously emits a charged particle as it breaks down into a smaller nucleus, does not occur often, and happens only with the heavier elements. Fission is different from the process of fusion, when two nuclei join together rather than split apart. - Live Science.

Was it fission or fusion?

Whatever it was, I felt its

spontaneity. Charged particles

blew into the vestibule where

we had been standing. The hairs

on my arms rose up as if

an electrical storm was

brewing right over the

carpeted halls and pastel

prints decorating the walls.

We had been working late

on legal documents, studying

citations as if they were Talmudic

texts, trying to hone the nucleus

of our arguments. Suddenly,

I was speechless, as if all the air

had vanished from the room so sound

would not carry. Looking back,

I am not sure what words could

have traversed those light years

that had traveled between us

in that fiery moment of

raw energy, reactions feeding

fires, letting loose, spilling out,

re-emerging larger than before.

All I can recall now is that

life as I had known it was over.

My new self was about to expand,

burst forth like a nuclear firestorm.

Ice Skating on the Moon (On the Day After...)

I dreamt we went

ice skating on

the darkest side

of the moon where

no one could find

us where water-

filled comets fell

and no one heard

a sound we were

hidden so deep

in penumbras

deep space probes

missed our sparkle

the magic arc

of our brazen

triple axels

dark poles hid us

solar windstorms

dropped frost crystals

we leapt to catch

them before they

could show up on

radio waves we were

determined to

stay submerged

to swirl to leap

to places where

no could find us

where we would be


free of judgments

pure as crystals

The Umbra Around Us

These days, the eclipse is on

our minds. I don’t mean the one

involving the sun.

I’m worried about kindness dimming

down, eroding faster

than wind-swept sand dunes.

The other day, my wife and I

were driving home, a rainbow

sticker peeking out from our bumper,

when two young white men

began shrieking invectives, fingers.

piercing the air like pitchforks.

Rage shrouded their eyes.

Tattoos covered their arms,

skulls and swastikas swarmed.

Maybe they were heading down

to Charlottesville. Maybe diminishment

has always defined them.

Now, though, they have swollen up,

intent on blotting out everything

that is not them. Suddenly, shadows

hover everywhere. Penumbras

and umbras arrive unannounced

as we are sitting peaceably

on our front stoops

or holding signs of protest.

Still, the world darkens,

while we stare heavenward

trying to ignore shadows,

hoping blindness will not follow.

About Mary K O'Melveny

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights lawyer living in Washington DC and Woodstock NY. Her poetry has been published in various print, on-line journals, and blog sites such as Writing in a Woman's Voice and The New Verse News. Mary's poetry chapbook, A Woman of a Certain Age, was published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.


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