What Mercy

What Mercy



What mercy is there

if while feeding the baby,

what slips down her wind-

pipe will not rise?


And what diction exists

for how lips part, a mid-syllable

tilted over the sink?

Terror, it turns out,

is immense in its stillness.

Pitiless as newsprint

in a language you can’t speak,

it does not even


not care, but settles in

amid the stainless steel cookware

and dried-out houseplants

browning in their bowls.


It clings to curtains, cutlery,

that dull landscape

framed across the hall

until you dig your finger


in and evict it. Relief is

a rush, a dash of oxygen. I swear

you’ll shudder

when it opens the door. 



Jared Harel was awarded the 2015 ‘Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize’ from the American Poetry Review. Additionally, his poems have appeared in Tin House, The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, Shenandoah and Ecotone. A graduate of Cornell’s MFA program, he lives in Queens, NY and plays drums for the twang-rock band, The Dust Engineers.


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