Tag Archives: Dante Alighieri

Onrefni Setnad Taeper*

I am an arctic gypsy
come hither to enjoy the warm, crackling fires of Hell.
I have ferried
across the Mississippi with a hooded man;
he had a record deal
and told me he once had played the drums,
mentioning that the sticks had given him his lively hood.

I nodded,
more to appear polite than out of genuine interest in his dilemma,
and asked him
if his place had air conditioning.

I got a piece of yellowtail
from a girl hanging out at the barbeque grill;
she said it was the in thing,
and would I please stay outside
while she pulled herself apart.

I read briefly
from the book of the dead
(which she had in translation)
and waited for the morning
for her to come to life.

She said it could be a really cool town
if you liked to see red.

I met a man who had composed
a benediction using a stanza or two
from Rushdie;
he sang it in a delightful monotone
while reciting his intention
to duplicate the splendor
of Gregorian chanting.

Although it was hard to decipher,
and now I am rather confused;

I met a man named Lucy –
Lucy Paul Smith,
and his neighbor, Lucy Anna Reed;

as a matter of fact,
everyone here seems to have the name
Lucy.

Not wishing to pry,
I asked a red-faced gentleman,
“What’s Lucy for?”
and waited
while he had a fall
and then recited something about needing a light
and meeting a lot of smokers.

I signed a petition
and walked down a forked path
where a door said,

“Tonight Only –
Glad It’s Night and the Pit,
with special guests
the Beezle Bubs.”

All hail the contract players.

1993

* subliminally, onrefnI s’etnaD taeper = repeat Dante’s Inferno

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On Milton and Dante

To each their own: let others speak
of hells where self-damnation wreaks
eternal havoc on the mind and soul;
its torments let their thoughts embrace,
imagining some devil’s face.
I will not heed such useless folderol.

It should suffice that where we are
has troubles quite enough to mar
our whim’s concept of beauty and heart’s ease,
but to repel all good there is,
for unseen promise, is hubris,
and shows our vain humility in shame.

What hells you make, keep for your own;
and if that means you must disown me,
then so be it — I am not to blame.

I do not worry for my fate,
on sulphured brimstone meditate,
or wince imagining my flesh on fire.
Instead, I seek right now right here,
to walk straight on, and have no fear,
accepting both the roses and their briar.
For if you’re acting kind and nice
in hopes of reaching paradise,
you’re only seeking payment or reward,

but I try to do good because
it’s worth the doing. If that’s flawed,
I’d rather know that Devil than your Lord.

20 JAN 2005

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La Vita Nuova

Ah, could I be quite so fully undone
by that which being shown me made me whole,
Love? To see it in just one place, begun,
then its ending, elsewhere, would leave my soul

lost. To pine for that which in visions lives,
but cannot manifest in fact, or clothe
itself in flesh: such limitation gives
new life to heaven and hell, being both.

Dante, were you truly in love, your eyes
would behold no other sight save that state,
and your undoing would be undisguised

delight – called by some fools a madman’s fate!
Ah, to be so undone, to find magic
in the world as it is, is not tragic.

14 JUL 2003

For whom has Love so undone you?
I, smiling, would look at them and say nothing.
— Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nuova

for Pietro

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Paradox Lost

Somewhat of a work in progress, that is based on a idea I had a few weeks ago when I dreamed up the title.

For Milton and Dante

Quotes from odd and esoteric pamphlets,
a sarcastic quip on theology,
blurred random notes from the wild underground,
scattered reference to deep philosophy –
my poetic idols throw devices
such as these, seeming oh so non-chalant,
off the ink-stained cuff, in the dry vacuum
of intellectual thought, to impress
each other and the rare occasional
reader, whose grand erudite ambitions
can be manipulated into praise
for completely meaningless poppycock.

Oh, with what symbols did these legends form
and secure their own place in language’s myth!

To prove mastery of a classic form,
curbing an ancient tongue with strange meter,
they will offer lavish experiments
in mixed metaphor and masked allusion,
citing the elders of their profession
(now too far advanced in their hoary graves
to refute proud, false interpretations)
who, they wisely claim, were guilty likewise
of some deliberate obfuscation
designed to wean the more clever reader
from the weak, average pulp-bound dullard,
and thus clearly demarcate those worthy
to even discuss the best Poetry.

Oh, with what patterns do the great ones weave
and defend their own skill with written words!

Perhaps that means I am a fool, or worse,
that my own mad delusions are fickle;
for in this dark chasm, this sad vortex
I have often found myself set adrift.
But I have no bulwark, no set anchor,
or touchstone against which to rest and gloat.

Against the literate precedent tide,
I have no formal credential to wield;
and surely, the educated wordsmiths
of the world laugh securely at their desks,
seeing my small craft approach in the night
and attempt to scale their high fortress walls.

Oh, with what gestures will the mighty make
their defense against the coming challenge?

11 DEC 2002

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