The Relativity of Sorrow

Mercy is the combing of tangled hair
the sewing up of a split lip
the staying of an execution.

So the prisoner remains alive
until he or she dies a natural death
and the priest returns to say the last rites
one more time like an encore
of rednecks shouting Freebird.
Mercy Mercy Me sang Marvin Gaye,
but he was shot in the head anyway.
Thomas Hardy only wrote love poems
to his wife after her death. When she lived,
she lived in the attic, closer to the clouds.
Domesticated is such a risk: a false wall,
toothpick fence, the mute swan in the playpen.
Grandpa reading dirty magazines in the outhouse
near to fields of melon and corn
and lynchings in July with blue snow cones.
Or the days of just take the thief down
to the chopping block.
Mercy seat is the resting place of God.
On the Sabbath he sits in the lap of a loving infidel.
When forgiven a heart fractures
into fallow fragments of birdshot.
Having arrived after the hunter,
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
broke the necks of the injured pheasants.
Mercy is the sap of pine,
popsicle sticks stacked to make a palace.
Reading and re-reading the Runaway Bunny
when you’d rather be exfoliating or shopping online.
Mercy is sometimes the smothering with a pillow,
or kindness to an ex. Compared
in some ancient text to a sword.

Joanne Dominique Dwyer

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