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
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
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.