Chrysalis/poem by Mary K. O’Melveny

This was going to be a poem

about hope’s power. Of emergence

from our weeks in sheltered spaces,

transformed to newer selves. 

Healed, our imaginations ran wild.

Our shells melted, turned rainbow-hued,

translucent scales unfolded, stretched.

Lifted from retreat, how we soared.

But I am writing from my tent

in Idlib, Syria. Shared by

three families, our cocoons are

cobalt blue sheets of thin plastic.

All we see here is mud or dirt. 

I stand in daily water lines,  

imagine which body part can be

washed once my tin jug is filled.

More queues form when medics arrive.  

Like our neighborhoods, barrel bombs 

transmuted our hospitals to dust.

Despite our pasts, we seek healing. 

Prayers are as fragile here as

butterflies. Once I saw a False

Apollo resting on a rock.

Its wings were black and white, dots

of royal blue, eye spots of russet.

I tried to imagine how it might

mimic its mythic namesake.

How it might soar like a poem.


Mary K O’Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Woodstock, NY and Washington DC. Mary is the author of “A Woman of a Certain Age” and “MERGING STAR HYPOTHESIS” (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the Hudson Valley Women’s Writing Group anthology “An Apple In Her Hand.” A Pushcart Prize nominee, Mary has received award recognition for her poetry, including First Place in the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition, the 2019 Slippery Elm Literary Journal Contest and the 2020 “Poems of Political Protest” Contest sponsored by City Limits Publishing. 
Mary’s new collection “Dispatches From the Memory Care Museum” will be published by Kelsay Press. 

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