inferno

We descend, then, to a place of greater pain.

Here darkness reigns, lit by the long hum

of afternoon; fluorescent tubes, monologues

at the dinner table; a bedside lamp,

in daylight a spent moon. Men hate their jobs,

wives, their bastard children; and women,

themselves, spouses, long impotent

with rage.

 

For a time we stared, said nothing; then at last

I said: “Master, who are these people?

Why are they here, and what have they done

to merit such suffering?” And the Master:

“They squandered their prime; fell in love, suffered,

married young; had children, mortgages:

securities, shelter. Men receded, turned in –

became reticent; abstract, lost

in the mirror; trod the carpet of the living room,

paced the hall in the muffled hours

of midnight, week-day afternoons; and women,

not loved, bitter; silent, blowing bubbles

beneath the surface, eye-deep in dishwater.

 

No sin has condemned them,

but their circumstances; and now they wander,

dead Shades across the endless

quarter acre, Sunday mowers; sprinklers,

blooming flowers, the rustling song

of cicada.

 

Each soul is cloistered, censured; beaten down.

And no-one hears the howls but their own, far away

like a shell to the ear”.

 

And I thundered: “Where is God’s love!” “Son”,

replied the Master, calm yourself. This is but

the second Round! There are hells

much worse, speaking of which…

Take my hand: for further down the road

I will show you the misery of those that hunger.”

 

And we went on down the road.

 

3 thoughts on “inferno”

  1. i see. Just clicked what you mean. I was taking it to mean those that ‘come next’ – in the next Round (circle). But you mean: ‘those that have been successful’, yes? That’s clever. But i like the sound of ‘hunger’ more. Let me consider. would be grateful for others’ opinions. Thanks Dean. Yes, Larkin in particular can be caustic (such a pretty name he has tho!).
    And thanks for summing it up like that, John.

  2. Hi, Mark, I am hearing Larkin and Auden in this; in the sentiment certainly, of being imprisoned in existence; and I wonder if the last line would be more effective if it read ‘…the misery of those that succeed.’ A good read, though, as it is.

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