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Saturday, October 20, 2018


by Mary K O'Melveny

Borders are on everyone’s mind these days.
Not just the ones where two-year olds
are stolen from their parents and sent
to courtrooms to plead their cases.

I’m thinking back to how the way one prays
could turn quite deadly if one strolled
down the wrong street, or someone’s accent
might cause them to vanish without traces

of guilt on men wearing soldier’s berets.
I used to live in Derry’s bogside, patrolled
night and day by those who aimed to prevent
our claims to history’s rightful places.

More than most, I know there are multiple ways
for lines to be drawn. Then, as truth unfolds,
we seem surprised at first, before we lament
our decisions. Occasionally, we wonder if grace is

a solid thing we can retrieve. I am amazed
still at our will to oppose treaties to control
our destinies. At first, peace arguments
made us skeptics. We stared at those sad places

where rigid boundaries left us dismayed
and divided, household from household,
and our viewpoints stiffened in dissent.
We fervently believed that no place is

safe except the one that meets our gaze
with like-minded visions. As tales were told,
we often found it necessary to augment
details that would emphasize the basis

for the walls we built. Soon, malaise
transformed us. As barbed wire unrolled
to top our fences and gates, we vented
and raged while men with briefcases

drew up documents filled with clichés
that some judge would use to uphold
our divisions. Eventually, if we went
on this way, we would be locked in stasis,

staring out from colored passageways
of green or orange, martydom tales retold
until it was time for us to invent
new heroes to take up their places.

The Good Friday accord was praised
for pushing back against the grief we hold.
We hoped it would allow us to reinvent
ourselves after the Troubles had disgraced us.

I am not eager to return to those days.
I drive tourists around now. I’ve been long paroled.
Yet, my days on the blanket can still disorient.
My tribal thoughts will fill in bordered spaces.

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age will be published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.