​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

laura eppinger


Mercy meet the lover of a sailor
guided by two poles: one, work, a world
of lockers and school dances. Now they call
you Mister but old wounds leak
easy, never scab over—new kids learn
the music, the moves but your own echoes
bleed through.

The other pole: home, in college town, the choir
pulls as if by magnets from behind a locked
chapel door. On campus I stand beside
(aside), blow on your ear to keep it warm. Better
I had tied you to the prow, filled the ear with wax, beat
the sirens to silence but (Mercy, mercy meet
me!) we both know that I am really back
on shore.

It’s lonely on the strand, weeping when
you can’t see the blessing in ribstitch of those knee-
socks you dress me in. Dress, undress just wastes
long days, you’re never really looking. Not looking, not at
rare coins not at hot meals, not in rowhouse 
topfloor through the mist. No, not even
at me. You speak of a cup in someone else’s
hand. A ring on ringfinger I’ll never see. Thirsty
for the past, I’ll let you

without mercy, none to mete.


you who know us, can you name 
us, because you taught us
to love like the women of the family
that is to say: work. work
but also: love from 
sister, mother, pantry
manager  love
as batter, love a gas flame
love that scours the hot
milk pot (the foam cooled
to a skin while you weren’t
looking) love as even    
sweeps, tender scrape and
every stroke of the mop, snaking
potato peels from the undersink
pipe: tell us that is not
work, tell us that is not love.
work. O! but relief, it creeps
in. long suit, cut deck
relief, baby so pretty we cry out
a hymn (from the kitchen)
we work till the beloved take
us for granted, nursing
each being till annihilation’s sweet
release. the work gets forgotten
so quick but the love, the love
we leave you

Laura Eppinger graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 2008 with a degree in Journalism, and she's been writing creatively ever since.