Poetry Month Challenges Day 15: Mercy and Misery

Misery in Mercy by Maria L. Berg 2023

Mercy & Misery

Misery is a condition or circumstance of distress or suffering; wretchedness; great mental or emotional distress; extreme unhappiness caused by need. Mercy is an act of kindness, compassion, or favor; compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; pity, or benevolence. To forbear is to refrain or abstain from; desist from; to keep back; withhold. So an act of mercy is an act of self-restraint. Somewhere in the concept of mercy is the need to restrain oneself from doing harm as well as being kind and compassionate.

Mercy also has an aspect of power. To show mercy, one must have more power than another. This contradicts with misery which is a state of distress and need, a state of powerlessness.

While looking at Misery and Mercy in The Mind at Mischief, I found this interesting passage:

It is commonly recognized that we have different personality presentations for home life and for company. We dress up, put on our best manner, and act quite differently—at least the majority of us do—when we have company, as compared with what we do when only the home folks are around.

I know a man who is “hard-boiled,” domineering and anything but pleasant in his business life; he is not much loved by his business associates. He is feared and dreaded by most of the people who have dealings with him; but I have observed this man in his home life under many and varying circumstances, and he is kindness, patience, and forbearance personified. He unfailingly shows a great affection and consideration for his family; and the entire family, including the servants, almost worship him.

This diversity of selves is also manifested in the matter of work and play. Most of us present an entirely different personality, as compared with our workaday selves, when we relax, throw off the harness, and go out to play. We are more natural and less artificial. We disport ourselves with more spontaneity and greater ease, with less of civilization’s restraint and inhibition, with less so-called dignity.

The average individual is in possession of, and constantly exhibits, from two or three up to four or five selves. Personality is certainly composite—it has many behavioristic facets which we may variously and at will turn to the gaze of the public or our immediate associates.

William S. Sadler, M.D. (1929)

What does this have to do with mercy and misery? I thought it was interesting that one person might cause misery at work but show mercy at home, or vice versa, depending on which is a more natural state, and which is a more artificial state.

Today’s Images

Inspired by the post I did last year on Mercy, and my first transformer filter I used for it, the door, I thought about the symbolism of shutting the blinds for both misery and mercy. I made a new filter cutting out a rectangle, cutting it into strips, hanging the paper strips on tiny rings on a piece of wire, and taping the wire over the rectangle. This representation of blinds over a glass door or window, created an interesting randomization of line position controlled by my movements and gravity. I added my string of purple LED lights to the mirrorworld to represent misery because my camera has a miserable time capturing them and detects them as blue.

Mercy in Misery by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is “Begin by reading June Jordan’s “Notes on the Peanut.” Now, think of a person – real or imagined – who has been held out to you as an example of how to be or live, but who you have always had doubts about. Write a poem that exaggerates the supposedly admirable qualities of the person in a way that exposes your doubts.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a shadow poem.

The Poem

Mercy for those suffering the misery of an unattractive shadow

We have everything you need
to get the sloppy out of that
shape following you around
For only thousands of dollars
and endless hours of focused attention
you can tame that trailing tail
into a trim obscuration
or make it disapear completely
if it won’t give cooperation
Here at Glop we have everything
you need to purchase bliss in your shade
On those glaring days when
that shadow’s too sharp
buy convenient, hand-powered
Glopbrella to round those edges
and for the dull and lifeless
umbrage there’s Glopglo
with a cute little crank
You’re saving the planet
while contouring your blank
And don’t forget the Glopness
an enclosure for those times
when you don’t want any shadow at all.
Hurry, mercy’s in hot demand.
Everyone has a shadow and
most are a misery to behold.
Don’t get caught with one
of those embarrassing shadows
next time you see the light.
Act fast!
Order now!

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