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Object Lessons





Object Lessons


Speaking as a woman, I always

wondered how half the sky did not fall

each time we were reduced

by someone feeling entitled.  Each time

an unwanted hand landed on our breasts

or buttocks or pushed our bodies

into corners or on the ground,

taking liberties we did not offer.


Too often, we looked for rescue

but no one was there but us.  We lost

our agency, our bearings, our power.

We were unseen, unheard, unrecorded.

Suddenly, our limbs and voices

could not be raised quickly enough

to do harm or raise alarms.

Or, even if we reacted, eyes were averted.


We were the original object lesson.

Silence was our expected language

as we cowered in closets and offices,

hotels and classrooms,

studios and chauffeured automobiles.

As if we were frozen like fossils

in amber awaiting future excavations

or colliding stars whose noise will only come later.


The recording of our tales

was not for the faint of heart.

That is if anyone had the time

or attention span to do so.

A few were bought off with cash

or opportunities or fear of reprisals.

Most pushed back memories into skull bone,

tried to layer over them with better times ahead.


We did not want the limelight of this history. 

We had other plans for our days

before they were interrupted by patriarchy.

We did not offer up our bodies

for this cause.  But now, here we all are,

propelled past panic, politeness and prayers.

Feel our force as we shout, stand up,

refuse to be moved.  As we finally kick back.


Mary K. O'Melveny


Mary K. O’Melveny, a recently retired labor rights attorney, lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Mary’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Allegro Poetry Magazine, GFT Press, The Flagler Review, The Write Place At The Write Time, The Offbeat and Into the Void, and blog sites such as “Writing in a Woman’s Voice” and “Women at Woodstock.  Mary’s poem “Cease Fire” won the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition sponsored by Jewish Currents Magazine and appears in the anthology “Borders and Boundaries” (Blue Threads Press 2017). 

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