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Rock Me, Mercy by Yusef Komunyakaa

Rock Me, Mercy
Yusef Komunyakaa

The river stones are listening
because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods
has gone dumb. It looks like rain
because it is too warm to snow.
Guardian angels, wherever you’re hiding,
we know you can’t be everywhere at once.
Have you corralled all the pretty wild
horses? The memory of ants asleep
in daylilies, roses, holly, & larkspur.
The magpies gaze at us, still
waiting. River stones are listening.
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please, rock me.


I’ve whispered my feelings to trees. Picked up stones and told them my secrets while they were still warm in my hand. I used to walk the long stretch of path behind the English department at the university during afternoons when I worried about my life. Have they always been leaning towards me, branches touching my forehead sometimes? A blessing perhaps?

What to do with all the anguish that we can’t put away?

I’ve had days when I wish I could abandon my grief the way the world leaves us to carry on despite loss after loss after loss.

The Emperor of Water Clocks by Yusef KomunyakaaSOURCE

This poem appeared in The Emperor of Water Clocks by Yusef Komunyakaa, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. Shared here with profound gratitude.


Another brilliant collection from Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who David Wojahn has called one of our “most significant and individual voices,” The Emperor of Water Clocks delights, challenges, and satisfies…Through these mutations and migrations and permutations and peregrinations there are constants: Komunyakaa’s jazz-inflected rhythms; his effortlessly surreal images; his celebration of natural beauty and of love. There is also his insistent inquiry into the structures and struggles of power: not only of, say, king against jester but of man against his own desire and of the present against the pernicious influence of the past.”


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