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Sunday, October 18, 2020


by Mary O’Melveny

Ardeth Platte, Dominican Nun and Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 84. Sister Ardeth spent years behind bars for her beliefs and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black. Photo: Sister Ardeth, left, and hr friend Sister Carol at the White House in 2019 protesting plans for a military base in Okinawa, Japan. —The New York Times, October 8, 2020

Who can say what lines cannot
be crossed? What laws must be obeyed?
Most days, it feels as though we
are all complicit in our world’s great ills.
Who can say how we will react
when guilt cannot be assuaged
in ways that “they” deem polite?
Safety in numbers does not always save.
I have wielded bolt cutters
and climbed cyclone fences to search
for a more peaceful planet.
They had to wash my blood from missile silos.
I wore white until orange
was chosen for me by others
who mistook my acts for threats.
Humility can flourish in many colors.
Who can say what bravery is?
I was just afraid we would
all expire from carelessness,
that we would disappoint by despairing.
I always loved my life here,
even strip searched and shackled.
My convictions were the dues
I paid to earn my right to be a truthteller.
Who can say how we best serve
as stewards of our earthly time?
I never judged others’ paths
but I knew my own footsteps were not enough.
In the end, we are all fellow
travelers trying to bend
the moral arc toward justice.
Who can say for sure that we will not succeed? 

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 is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.