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Mercy


ISSUE:  Spring 2010

Like two wrestlers etched
around some ancient urn,

we’d lace our hands, then wrench
each other’s wrists back

until the muscles ached
and the tendons burned,

and one brother or the other
grunted mercy—a game

we played so many times
I finally taught my sons,

not knowing what it was,
until too late, I’d done:

when the oldest rose
like my brother’s ghost,

grappling with the little
ghost I was at ten—

who cried out Mercy!
in my own voice Mercy!

as I watched from deep
inside my father’s skin.

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