Mary K O'Melveny

What Kind of People Write About Birds?; Quantum Entanglements: Mary K O’Melveny

What Kind of People Write About Birds?


Colonizers write about flowers.

I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks seconds before becoming daisies . . .

Noor Hindi, “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying.”


I love to write about birds. What might this mean?

White skin privilege? Classism? Failure of nerve?

Cluelessness about those marathon human tragedies 

circling our globe like murders of crows?

Some days everything is cause for weeping.

Our grass is filled with great lakes of water.


Our purple martin house lists in the meadow, 

pushed aslant by frozen ground. 

Will it right itself by April or tumble

over like a fallen statue? Its prospective

tenants will have flown hundreds

of miles each day without a stop.


Two bald eagles at the edge of our woods

are keeping score on poetic justice. 

Their nest is filled with tiny twigs, moss

and hollowed bones of trout, moles and kittens. 

They know nature’s cruelty can be just as stark as ours.

There is a tiger moth that drinks the tears of birds.


Imagine what a bird’s shadow signals to someone

locked away from light. Each year, birds traverse 

skies filled with obstacles they did not make. 

They do not over-think their options. In August,

a ruby-throated hummingbird drank from our feeders. 

By December, her wings whirl in Panama.



Quantum Entanglements


Each autumn, bar-tailed godwits

flap, flap, flap, flap their wings 

for days on end. From southern Alaska

to New Zealand. Seven thousand miles.

Some soar three or four miles above ground.

They do not stop for food, water, respite.

Like marathon runners, they bulk up

before flight, double their weight,

use fat for fuel, stay tuned into the zone.  

They shape-shift to follow magnetic lines.


When godwits finally land in Christchurch, 

bells peal in welcome. In March, their chosen 

route of return passes through tidal flats 

in China’s Yellow Sea. No one knows how 

they stay aloft. Survival demands they move

as one. Their spellbinding stories travel 

the globe like Einstein’s theory of relativity. 

When light bends, everyone follows its flame.

Perhaps this is optimism defined. 

Sing to me. Our harmony will permeate skies.


Mary K O'Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Washington DC and Woodstock, NY. Mary's award-winning poems have appeared in many print and on-line literary journals and anthologies and on national blog sites such as The New Verse News. She is the author of three poetry volumes ("A Woman of a Certain Age," "Merging Star Hypotheses" and "Dispatches From The Memory Care Museum." She has also co-authored two anthologies featuring writing by The Hudson Valley Women's Writing Group ("An Apple In Her Hand" and "Rethinking The Ground Rules").