Purity & Mercy


Robert Gibbons

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 105 in 2002.

No definitive reason to take the cross-town bus on the coldest day of the year, but I stood there, on Mass Ave., a long time, alone.

Suddenly the wind flung a pair of lace panties sauntering clear across the road. A dance, a swagger, virgin's, prostitute's? Behind me on the Christian Science Building two carved words stared down from the cornice: PURITY - MERCY. The color of the underthings somewhere between pink & purple.

The next day on the boat above the pink-blue sea I saw newlyweds: she sat writing thank-you notes, left-handed, diamond & white gold bright. He sat mute with the curve of back I've seen only torn by ancient sculptors out of marble.