Tag Archives: Hell

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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Hell is to the North

They say the way is often well-paved and leads
down along the map. But I have wondered, lying listening
to the constant rain, about the benefits of concrete
and steel until it dawns on me.

The say that Mecca is to the east or west,
but when you’re on your knees, the direction is down –
to me, that means the South.

The sins in the cities of time are alloyed
from two parts innocence, one part greed and often,
a helping of guilt for good measure. Opportunity,
they say, canvasses more limited neighborhoods
than he used to. If you ain’t on his route, he won’t
knock.

But I know this – real chances don’t wait; they don’t
stand at the door and look in the windows. They’ll slip
in the kitchen by the screen, ’round midnight, like a thief,
and your wrought iron gates won’t help you none.

And further, when the sun won’t as much as shine
there’s not much chance of seeing the light, you dig?

You can sit here in darkness and cold, if you like,
But maybe you’ll be doing it alone.

I say, “That’s Hell.”

As for me, I shall move down to New Orleans;
and when the wind blows heavy with sweat I shall laugh –
for although rumor and sense might otherwise indicate,
the actual gates of Hell are located
much further North.

1995

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