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Tuesday, June 07, 2022


by Mary K O’Melveny

At first, there was just a single cloud.
It wasn’t even very large. One might 
have missed it altogether. Like a cataract.
But it grew bigger, began to darken.
Before long, it had multiplied into
several cloud patches. Each shifted
to a different corner of the sky,
staked out a position. Refused to
move. Dared other clouds to approach 
at their peril. The once-azure sky
vanished. Instead, shadows loomed
overhead like prehistoric birds of prey. 

At first, we did not worry. We knew
shadows needed some light to survive. 
But the shade expanded. Umbras were
everywhere. People queried What can we do?
Thoughts were exchanged. Silhouettes
were measured. Statistics recorded. Talks
faltered, flailed, failed. Prayers met silence.
Candles were lit. Flashlight sales grew.
Batteries grew scarce. Campfires flickered
throughout day and night. Their smoke made
it harder to breathe or see. Night vision goggles
were issued to all eligible households.
Soon, the sky was so thickened that memories
were numbed.  Books picturing seacoasts,
flowers, forests sold out. Libraries had
waiting lists for stories of people whose lives
were bathed in sunshine. We struggled to
recall days at ocean’s edge, feet splayed
in wheat-colored sand, a beloved’s hand
dappled with light. Sunburned shoulders
from garden parties and protest marches
soon paled to ghostly reveries. Last to fade
was a vision of a playground filled with
children, sneakers aglow with sparkling lights.

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 most recent poetry collection is Dispatches From the Memory Care Museum, just out from Kelsay Books. 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.