From My Commonplace Book - 51

from The Infusion Room

by Jane Cooper

Mercy on Marianne who through a hole beneath her collarbone drinks
the life-preserving fluid, while in her arm
another IV tube drips something green. It never effects me, she says,
I'm fortunate.
She has Crohn's and rheumatoid arthritis and now osteoporosis, as well as
no gamma globulin
as we all have no gamma globulin, or at least not enough. Mercy on Aaron,
her son, who at fifteen has Hodgkins and arthritis and no gamma
globulin, who is out of school
just for the moment. He's so bright, the doctor says, he'll make it up.
But of course
you never (as I remember) quite make it up. (Sitting up all night so as not
to cough,
coughing so hard I tore the cartilage off three ribs. If I was God, the
then-doctor said,
I'd design better ribs.)

Mercy on Mitzi who shook for three hours the first day I was there, and
who cried because of pain in her legs but aspires to horseback riding.
Mitzi's tough, the nurse said admiringly, and I thought, could I ever be
so tough?
Could I wear a velvet cap like Cynthia? Mitzi's on chemo.

And mercy on Paul, who drives a cab part-time and has sores on his
If you could put your feet up more, the doctor suggests. He winces as
she touches his skin, explains
if he could just finish college he could get a better job, but to finish college
he has to drive this cab,
and I think of my luck all those years teaching at a college, the flexible
hours, the pleasant rooms
where you could put your feet up if need be. Mercy on Mike,
the pilot, who looks like a jockey, who shows us pictures
of his 14-month-old girl,
and who used to be allergic, as I am allergic, so that now while Mike
reads the comics
his friend leans against the wall, thumbing a computer manual, faithful,
a tad overweight.
Mercy on the wholesale grocer, the man who sells prostheses, the
used-Caddy salesman moving to glossy Florida,
the one who says candidly, The first two days of each week are OK,
then I begin to get tired.

Mercy on the black kid strapped to his Walkman, mercy on all like him
who fall asleep.
Mercy on Sally Jessy Raphael and the interminable talk show flickering
as we drift, or shiver, or sleep.
Aaron puts his huge sneakers up on Marianne's seat and she holds
his hand lightly while he sleeps;
they look like the Creation of Adam.

Jane Cooper (American, 1924-2007) grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and Princeton, New Jersey. She taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence College and from 1995-97 served as New York State Poet. The full text of The Infusion Room can be found in The Flashboat: Poems Collected and Reclaimed, published in 2000.

The poem appears in The Flashpoint with almost every other line indented, which suggests that in the original many of the lines were quite long and that the poem was altered to accommodate the book's margins.

Sally Jessy Raphael is an American talk show host.

See Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam here:


Mercy on them all indeed Merry - I recall a similar situation whilst undergoing neurology tests and a long night chatting with another patient awake under observation with "infusions". Hopefully her Consultant's treatment did cure.
Mercy on all who suffer. Serious illness during childhood gave Jane Cooper, I think, an acute sensitivity to the suffering of others. A short prose piece called "The Children's Ward" that she wrote about her experience is very moving, and if I can figure out how to extract an excerpt that does it justice, I'll post it later.

I appreciate your comments, Enid, always.

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