Monday, 22 June 2020


by Mary K O'Melveny

On Father’s Day, I always remember
my mother. How she always
looked down rather than spoke up, how
she kept quiet when she should have
been loud against her oppression.
Her fear of failure not focused
on the man who undermined her
but on herself for failing to
be worthy of love. How she left
home for him, held her suitcase close,

stared out at farmlands, old churches, 
barnyards from the train window as
signs of her old life passed by her.
What promises kept her going?
I always wonder about that
man waiting for her at some Texas
depot, so different than the
one I knew later on. Or so
she always said when I
needed to believe it was true.

Twice married and divorced, he must
have known how innocence can fade
if not tended like a newly
seeded garden. Was he kind first,
gentling her fears? Did he laugh at
jokes in morning light, dance with
her at their honkytonk bar named
Yellow Rose of Texas? Somehow,
by the time he left for the war,
her conversion was completed.

I tried thinking of my parents
as birds. He, a hawk circling for
the most vulnerable prey. She,
cowering in some barn corner,
a timid chickadee afraid
of her shadow, always fearing
that she should have done more,
been more. Or, shrinking away from
limelight, bending toward safety
like a nervous turtledove.

Their nest, always precarious
as storms raged, was filled with psychic
debris and wishful thinking. Once,
she walked out our front door. She
wore a dull brown hat with a small
side feather, stared away when she
said goodbye. I remember how
my father slammed the door behind her,
then frightened us for the rest of
the day by not speaking a single word.

* * * * *

Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Washington, DC and Woodstock, NY. Mary, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is author of A Woman of a Certain Age and MERGING STAR HYPOTHESES (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the anthology An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019). 

1 comment:

  1. So familiar, yet ever so heartbreaking, and these words so sadly piercing.