So many streets burn tonight. I’m non-lethal, full of mercy.Infuse your shirt with cheap vinegar, drunk on my mercy.I could’ve held black olives or honeyed Georgia peaches.Instead I’m a mercenary, fumigating without mercy.O smothering night, let’s feast. Paint your cheekswith darkest clouds—fulfill my dream of gothic mercy.I drag lungs from their tethers in Oakland, Ferguson, and Jerusalem.Isn’t this actually just my master’s corporate gramercy?I blister into you with a suitor’s fawning. Siege of longing.Then I’m spent, purged of purpose. I’m trash in a world devoid of mercy.Loved your nose. Temples. Soft eyes. Bellies and retreating kidneys.But now I’m directionless, and no god to ask for mercy.Before city hall, a bouquet of rubble. Tonight, a plague of sheriffs.Things are what they used to be, oh mercy, mercy.Beloved, I can’t stand to be at our mayor’s sly mercy.Recycle me, forgive me. I beg you for sweet, sweet mercy.
Kenji C. Liu is author of Map of an Onion, national winner of the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. His poetry appears in American Poetry Review, Action Yes!, Barrow Street Journal, Asian American Literary Review, Split This Rock’s poem of the week series, a chapbook, and several anthologies. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers.