Clemency with a Little Dirt | Hassan Melehy

Mexico City
©2019 Edgar Henriquez, LC via Unsplash


I’ve declined help,
leaving it to the lingering green
of the nearby landscape,
removed as I am from
any reliance on others
that might prompt them
to throw sand across
my decisions and desires.

Years at a time have gone by
before any mothers
get a real chance to dole out
the nourishment that filters down,
as eager as they are
to preserve choice goods
for their own children, but
almost as concerned for
their neighbors’ comfort.

Learning passes from soul to soul,
generation to generation,
and it’s inevitable
that all the hard facts
jumble together
with all the vital myths.

What’s left to me is
a handful or two of dry dirt
and barely enough moisture
to form clods out of it,
and seeds I could count
on one hand if they weren’t
scattered just beyond
my flagging grasp.


To the subdued melody of morning
my footsteps cross ashy tiles
under sunrays dampened by a filter
of industrial ugliness—this brightness
still seems, even when nuclear physics
explains it as fusion on a cosmic scale,
like something divine, the furnace
of the world’s first creatures.
In the nooks of my brain the light
powers up memories of zealous forebears,
creating the chiaroscuro effect
of strict judgment on the tiles’ surface,
once rough but over the years
smoother and smoother as feet keep passing.

Along the walkway tendrils and vines 
twist their way between
evenly laid stones, poking into the corral
where cattle and pigs nibble on them,
the butcher’s axe looming above.
It’s a food chain that my
political appetites have hammered
into a tight chain of command.
I can walk these grounds as
countless forebears have, I can tend
to the plants and animals, make sure
every part is in order and in place,
but none of it offers guarantees against
the brisk spawning of a virus.

The Need for a Break

In the field where livestock grazes
I’m digging rocks from the ground, the
right sizes and shapes for
a wall along the garden path
to mark off which part of the land
is mine for leisure and which
I’ll share for work, and then
which part to reserve
for future underlings. If this patch ever
takes off I’ll hire a team
of chroniclers who decades after
I’m gone might concoct the story of
my she-wolf stepmother and
the power her milk drove into my limbs,
which citizens’ll repeat until
they’ve worn it thin and no one
believes it anymore and they realize
how much profit I made from the flesh of
their ancestors and
they tear down every statue of me.
The ragged fate of a founder is
to be turned into a god, and since
it’s my nature to flounder that’s
the last thing I want.

My goals remain modest:
while daylight holds out I’ll
stack the rocks in a straight line
like straight-backed soldiers giving
an impression of force to passersby.
The cattle and pigs watch me
with no thoughts yet of the butcher’s axe,
animals are so lucky they can pack
a moment with the fullness of
a lifetime and I’ll do the same
once I sit under those
huge white magnolia flowers.

©2023 Hassan Melehy
All rights reserved

Hassan Melehy…

…is a writer and teacher living in North Carolina, USA. In addition to books and essays in literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, he has written scenarios for several short films. His verse has appeared in Prelude, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Hat, and BlazeVOX Journal, among other venues.



Be inspired… Be creative… Be peace… Be

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