If you could ask the stars,
Those flickers that visit nightly,
They would tell you it wasn’t them
Who carved us from mud
To marvel at our opposable thumbs.
It wasn’t them who forfeited God
For a watch that didn’t work anyway.
It wasn’t them who sometimes denied
Us the living mirror we named love.
And still you look to them
For stories, for riddles, for answers
That they never possessed.
I’m not saying I’m better than you,
Far from it, if you find me here
Erecting the same elements
With these meager tools,
Wanting even now to give them life,
That they may look upon me with mercy.
I’ve been a prophet. I’ve been a fool.


Copyright © 2022 by José Antonio Rodríguez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote ‘Mercy’ in the summer of 2021 while thinking about some of the common tropes in poetry, including references to celestial objects, and thinking of my early childhood in a rural, almost-no-electricity village in Mexico with its jaw-droppingly gorgeous night sky. I was intrigued by the interplay between the self-aware speaker and the beguiling beauty and metaphorical power of these distant, unreachable sources of light.”
José Antonio Rodríguez