Kindness – A Poem by Mary K. O’Melveny

Mary's new collection of poetry, A Woman of a Certain Age, is available for pre-order now from Finishing Line Press.

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Mary K O’Melveny, a recently retired labor rights attorney, lives in Washington DC and Woodstock, New York. Her poetry has been published in a variety of print and online journals and anthologies. Mary was the winner of the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition sponsored by Jewish Currents Magazine and a Finalist for the 2017 Pangaea Award sponsored by The Poet’s Billow. Mary also won an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Reid-Howard Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers and was Short-Listed for the 2018 Fish Publishing Poetry Prize judged by Ellen Bass. She is working on two new poetry collections.


by Mary K O’Melveny

Some of us are trying to be kind.

Even in smallest ways. Even as the known

world self-destructs around us, shards of

optimism falling from the sky before we even

have a chance to look up to see what has

shifted us off our comfortable axis.


I’ve got a chipmunk problem in my yard.

The tiny furred creatures have popped up

everywhere, sending showers of dirt

into the air like it was Yellowstone.

I cannot kill them even though I want to.

They will not leave even though I have raged


at them, insulted them and their ancestors.

My neighbor brings a have a heart trap

so I can remove them kindly. He baits it with

peanut butter. Soon the trap has a frightened

occupant. I cannot bear to look out for fear

of crying. The prisoner is soon relocated.


The trap is replaced. A new chipmunk takes

the bait. He too is repatriated to a new territory.

Capture and repeat.   The metal trap looms larger

each day as an unending array of innocents are

tempted by creamy nut paste. Soon enough,

I begin to worry about babes left behind in tunnels,


about mothers and fathers grieving for lost children.

One day a chipmunk plants itself on my deck

and looks in through the window. My kind self

huddles behind the blind. I will not make eye contact.

This is the humane way, I say to myself, even as I begin

to imagine each trapped rodent wearing an orange


jumpsuit as interrogators gather nearby with pen

and paper waiting for the inevitable confessions.

One night, the trap is sprung, its detainee freed from

house arrest. I am thrilled. Then I learn that a bear

has likely done it. Probably thanked me for the easy meal.

Now I am lost in my worst fears. There is no kindness in my yard.


How could I have thought otherwise? This is how

it always begins. Good intentions vanishing

like some dying star, rationalizations

reverberating across celestial centuries.

Turns out it is our unwavering belief

in our self-righteousness that is the trap.


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