Mercy is an old word

This morning at Credo, a homeless person obviously suffering the mental and physical strafing of street life, stole in and immediately and determinedly began to panhandle, and just as quickly was ushered out.
We lowered our heads slightly, in that half-guilt, half-relief pose of the considerate-privileged, and returned to our coffees.
This afternoon in Beaver Hills Park, a girl with a brick is threatening another girl.
She is holding the brick high over her head with both hands, screaming, you fucking-whore-crack-fuck-bitch I’m going to kill you.
Three males and another older girl are watching, standing in a circle around them, taking turns trying to calm her, saying, calm down you stupid bitch, fucking nutcase, you cow.
This goes on for too long and I’m feeling my insides vibrate and I’m getting ready to call 911.
But she gives in and runs off, throwing the brick in the bushes.
Now a man, who I’ve seen often, comes yelling, shrieking in bursts, howling much of the same vitriol into the air—at no one anyone can see.
Another man is collecting cigarette butts he finds in front of the benches, he lifts each one to his nose, perhaps to find a surprise.
There’s a tree here I’ve photographed often over the years.
Last year it still leaned supernally over the ornamental pond.
This year the tree has been cut down and the pond has been left dry.
Mercy is an old word, it’s a love word, a release word, a glorious word, but over the years its religious, otherworldly overtones have tended to mute its core strength, slacken its callused hands and petrify its subtleties.


  1. It’s a question I’ve carried for years. I suppose, Ike, we need to continually nurture our internal garden, until we have produce to spare. But I should be asking this question of you, as it comes from a merciful man.

  2. A lot to ponder here. Especially the last image. I often wonder what to do with all the glimpses into stories I hear at the library. You’ve shown that cumulatively, they have power. Thanks, Stephen.

  3. The prophet said that we are to do justice and to love mercy. If I get mercy at all it’s because I’ve received it from someone else. I don’t think it would have come naturally to me….

  4. Mercy promised by theological sacrificial violence left me violated. Mercy from significant persons in my life has liberated me. Thank you for that gift.l

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