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Mary O'Malley

I have been published in some small print 'zines, on an Irish blog, placed second in the a Whiskey Island Magazine contest, been in two local anthologies. I am a MFA in poetry and a mother of two sets of twins. In my previous life I was a master's level social worker.


Driving Past the Prison

my daughter and I see a mile wide

steel fence and barbed wire. . Inside

the prison farm, cows chew their feed.

Soon my cousin will be there: after

his third DWI, after another

failed bout with demons and doubled

drinks. How could a child

fathom this regimentation of life?

How one has to train the mind to live

without bending to a time of closed

doors, to sounds of harsh metal clanks.

We drive in silence past the outside

stillness of reeducation.

Coffin Ships, 1849

I donna like to think on it .It was cold and there tweren’t no fires. We was down below in the dark, where there twern’t no water or air. Bejesus! It smelled to high heaven. The babies there cried, caught the fever and died.

And all of us off to Amerikay

I regretted my time away from God and Sunday mass. Lucky I was, or St Padriag took pity. We called it the coffin ship - but there twern’t no coffins only the bodies pushed into the ocean with murmured prayers for the dead. And the motherd’s with their worries about resurrection an’ what would happen; - bodies soaked and sunk into the depths of a dangerous sea.

And all of us off to Amerikay.

I heard the wonders of the land and I believed them, I did. I worked the Erie Canal and survived the flies and sickness. digging up dirt with feet in the water and mud I learned to dig fast as fast as I could. There were other deaths. Jimmy and Pete, my friends, got sick and died. I went on to other jobs laying bricks and building. Good and fast I was made me a boss they did. But I never got back to Sunday mass.

An all of us livin in Amerikay.


I Read About Myself in my Daughter’s Writing

I found on my laptop a well written piece full

of detail and feeling. It touched and wrapped

me with its palatable pain and anger She was

angry with me for trying to grasp a life of my own

angry with my all consuming love for writing, angry

with my sister and her godmother’s unplanned circus

sideshow death. We mothers are doomed, giving up

our children day by angry day Like Anne Frank, her

put upon father married to that witch. They can’t be near

us; don’t want to be with us. The baby and toddler are gone

gone with their need for only you in the crib wanting only you

gone with their kisses ;dirty hands and faces


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