What it is about is the coming-down-to: the stooping to where in dust, among stones

someone is crouched so outcast-alone -- so left without a shred of dignity or hope -- that already he appears more than halfway tombed in the debris of a life. Mercy is of few, if any, words. The simplest of visitations (couldn't you say?) arriving, without fanfare, as the bearer of water cupped in hands or the morsel, no more, of bread almost casually placed within the reach of some creature -- injured and now cornered in a lair -- that desperately must shrink

from every calculated inducement to give itself up. Mercy has time and enough to spare. Is in no haste, no haste at all to clasp or even, too soon, to touch.

Issues no warnings. Urges nothing. Apparently quite prepared (for as long as needs be) to dawdle on outskirts, gaze idly wandering. Perhaps even caught humming in an offhand way. . . . But there. That's the point. Never

actually out of sight until -- suddenly --

a voice exclaims, ``Well you're a fine spectacle, I really must say!'' Even piling it on! With a tartness smacking more of a nursery than a pulpit: ``What an idiotic mess to have got yourself into!

Such a stupidly -- stupidly -- long way round -- '' Everything that must follow is familiar enough: pertaining as it does to the enactment of a law inscribed in stone. Judgment, under justice meted out. Remorse. Retribution -- to who knows what last farthing exacted?

This holds, of course. Inexorably so. But first -- first -- let it be Mercy that lightly comes. The airiest of presences. Unarmed, unaccusing. Merely stooping-down-to, as unpretentiously as a wing might curve to re-enfold a fallen fledgling all but lifeless

where it lies in dust, too trifling to be mourned or so much as glanced at in a hurtling world. . . . For it's Mercy that best knows both when and how. Out of the blue, suddenly calling ``Child! Child!'' Or chattily, as if resuming over a garden gate an exchange only minutes before broken off -- ``Such a wretched forgetting it has been, hasn't it? When really --

all the time -- what's gone on mattering is that never for an instant have you been forgotten!'' Even if it takes until Kingdom Come the presence, the voice, adamantly will refuse to go away. Simply waiting there. Waiting for a space in which to say ``Ah, dear heart -- Now come! Stand up! See here is my hand, for yours to hold -- '' Mercy, the re-Mothering on this earth we share

even of those who appear orphaned beyond recall.

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