Mercy by Thomas Zimmerman

So Mahler and the other greats, they try

to tell us death is not so bad. I guess

they’re right. Not long ago, it loomed so god-damned

close: in people’s houses, in the fields

and streets. They learned to deal with it. Just so

much closer to the bone. We buy our meat

in bright-red shrink-wrapped squares. Looks nothing like

the too-thin panting dog my weary wife

and I had put down at the vet’s this afternoon.

The trauma and the grief, they’re shorthand for

an abstract canvas of emotions: Rothko,

Pollock shot clean through with something pulsing

harder, darker than their paint. But needle,

doctor’s stethoscope: so quiet, bright.

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