Thursday, June 09, 2005


This morning I wanted to set up the Orion Telescope CD for my husband, the one that accompanied the telescope I gave him for his 76th birthday last year, but every time I try to get him to use the computer, even if it doesn’t concern email or the internet, he turns his nose up, as if it comes from a different world; and, indeed, it does. I’ve thought I could tempt him with Science since he’s a retired pathologist and ever since he was a kid, went to the Bronx High School of Science, won the Westinghouse Science Talent Search Award and I don’t know how many others, he has been hypnotized by anything Science. But now his eyes go elsewhere, and I give up the notion of learning more about planetary systems with him, at least for today. I start to get up to do the dishes, but his words stop me:

This room has so much mercy in it

I sit back down. What do you mean?

The goodness of it...


the books, the words
that fall from the shelves

The quiet ... the softness ... and poetry
The whole aura of this place

With Bach playing in the background?

Yes and the bananas ...
There’s a certain tenderness in bananas

In the oatmeal
with the milk poured over it?

Yes, and the picture in front of the Freud books
it has a certain peacefulness to it

The one of you and Butchie?

Yes, on the porch,
in the sun.
We’re almost praying


Yes, praying ...
for things future … for things past ...

I've always thought of the kitchen table in our library/family/everything-in-it room as a crowded mess. Not until now and this conversation with my husband, tired and infirm, have I considered that there could be anything as grand or as simple as mercy here in our scrambled lives.

Esther Altshul Helfgott


Radish King said...

Oh yes, I love that room as well. Beautiful. This There’s a certain tenderness in bananas just stunned me. Give Abe and Butch my love, won't you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Esther,

As I read "Mercy" something reached down, deep inside me and every so gently touched a spot and suddenly there came a well-spring of tears flowing; a source point unearthed. The mystery of grace that we call life/death is often best seen from the periphery. Illness, infirmity, loss change our perspective. To me, Abe speaks a truth not often witnessed and I am grateful for his observations and your noting them so beautifully.

And of your wonderful, cozy rooms full of poetry and people and art and dogs and dishes, the place where so many have gathered to share writing and exploring the human condition, there are layers of being there; the combined energies of a multitude, palpable. Abe's naming that feeling 'mercy' is extraordinary for I see how that idea holds it all: the tears of process and of laughter; the holding of each other with dignity and allowing; the building of community through shared stories and poems; the honesty and anger, the sadness and humor; the place of safety while delving deeper; the love shared... This list could go on and on but Abe named it in a single word: mercy.
Thank you and love to you both,

Miryam Gordon said...

Esther, it's so "Abe to me, as far as I know him. He's extraordinary and you both made an extraordinary poem.