Rather than pick out one person in a crowd, he preferred to paint images of an emotion, or a feeling, that could be felt in the breast of all men and all women, regardless of who they were, where they came from or what their experience in life has been. Even when one person was selected to be the star in a given poem, such as in “The Mercy”, Levine managed to convey the thoughts included in such a way as to include all people in the sentiment. Although “The Mercy” is primarily a poem regarding the ship in which his mother traveled to America when she was a small child, Levine manages to find a way of establishing the name of the ship as the human characteristic it embodies, throwing the irony of the ‘welcoming’ shore into the phrases and providing a tactile sense of something that can never be enough.
The point of view of the poem has an interesting twist to it in that it is both first person present and third person past. Levine appears in the poem as the first-person narrator, which imbues the lines with a sense of immediacy and urgency despite the fact that they are relating a story more than 83 years old. This is established in the very first line when he tells us “The ship that took my mother to Ellis Island” (1) was named ‘The Mercy.’ Through this perspective, he is able to adopt a more conversational tone of voice which serves as an invitation to the reader to ride with him a ways on the rhythm and beat of the words. In addition, the use of phrases such as ‘my mother’, ‘I read’ and ‘I located’ help to bring the listener even further into the story, while the age of the story is emphasized through “the yellowing pages of a book” (21) and the fact that the ship “eighty-three years ago was named ‘The Mercy’” (2). In this action, it is possible for the reader to see not Levine doing these things, but perhaps .picturing him- or herself participating in the action of the story in place of Levine, or perhaps imagining how their own ancestors came to America. . .