Upper Inferno


Around me grew the pathless shadows of life’s dark wood
Three Beasts block’d my way
Leopard on the path clad in light revealing lingerie
Lion fills my ears with fear, roaring modern cacophony
She-wolf eyes my rucksack daring to rid me of money

At the point of defeat I heard a human voice,
“I am the shade of Virgilius of Rome,
Poet to Augustus & the false & lying gods!
You must take another road & if you follow I will guide you,
The place eternal waits, where shrieking ancyents wail for second death


Clapping hands * Screams of anguish
Haunted sighs * Lamentations
Loud Wailings * Strange Tongues
Horrible Lingua * Words of Pain
Behind a shifting banner I saw so many people,
Train of wretched shades by black & loathsome river
Where daemon steering hovercraft beams eyes of burning coal
“This is the Acheron,” said the poet, “& that is Charon!
Father of the livid marsh, watcher of its river crossing!”

Souls, like leaves of Autumn, ping into his craft
Driven on by divine justice, until the tree drew bare
&, as a new crowd gathers while the pilot sped away,
A red blaze shone, dark winds struck up, my senses overcome,
I shudder & fall like one seiz’d with sudden sleep

Heavy thunder awakens me
Rested eyes survey the Valley of Pain
Deep & dark & blanketed in vapours
The poet turns to me, painted death-pale with pity,
“Let us descend into the blind world down there…”

We stepp’d into that abysmal place
Serpent-realms girdling the infernal world
Where countless wailings rise, & sighs forever tremble
Where swell vast crowds of men, women & little children

The Poet turns to me with sad, sad eyes,

“These did not sin, they have merit enough,
But were born before the Harrowing of hell
Faith’s gateway by them never meant to know
& so… are lost…”



A blazing light shone beyond that forest of thronging spirits
& we went thither to a noble castle set apart;
Seven walls of intelligence protected from immorality
A gentle stream of eloquence stood watch over the dark
Guarding a gallant tribe, gazes of grand authority
Observe us as we drift there, men like the dashing Aeneas,
Ceasar, Cicero, souls of science & philosophy;
Aristotle, Plato…
then turned back to their playstations
Apart from one old man who hobbl’d over to greet us
His name was Thales, & we talked of poetry & of our
Noble school of eagle-song, when our converse over
We pursued a sloping drawbridge to a place without light.

Here Minos stands guard
Horrible, snarling, Judge of the Dead

Encircled by his spiral tail his sinners are hurl’d below
To a place of muted light where a restless, hellish storm
Blows them hither, thither, upward, downward,
Lamenting & blaspheming the great Power of God

“These are the carnal sinners that forever reap LUST’S whirlwind
Of a life subjected to their heart’s desires,
No hope of rest or comfort from the lust which drives their souls”

Thro’ battling winds long lines of shades pass like hungry cranes

“When you abandon yourself to a love that is nothing but love
You are in hell already!”
Three-headed Cerberus perceives us
Bares bloody fangs, fierce & hideous
Groveling in the sunken mire
About the Great Worm of Hades

My master throws handfuls of dirt into three ravenous gullets
Calming the devouring Beast,
Who, mumbling, lets us pass to a pitiful place,
Upon this spot falls an eternal, cursed rain
Unceasing measure, cold & heavy hail, foul water, snow,
Fallen souls lie hungry & helpless in the mud

“These know a strange & loathsome penalty,
Flesh-loving fools, far from luxurious banquetry,
Yielded their souls to food without spiritual motive!”

Then we went around that curving road, lost in conversation
To come on Pluto at the point where path fell steep

“Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!”

Clucking monotone warning from the old god of Hades,
The baron of Zeus, Lord of the Grecian underworld,
Who once lost his kingdom to the arch-villain’s armies,
Not now forced into lowly lieutenant-hood

“Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!”

My Master rants,
“Silence accursed wolf, our journey has been willed on high!”
As wind-swollen sails fall aheap when tall masts snap,
The cruel beast fell



Passing beyond the whimpering God of Wealth,
We follow the serpentine tail
Scampering down the dismal slope
To where fresh toils founder & pain is newborn

God’s justice flings sinners into wild tormenting whirlpools
Jostling & jousting & dueling with sharp credit cards

“Who are these souls that pierce my heart?”
“They are the hoarders & squanderers of Avarice,
Who embroil’d their lives worshipping material existence,
Now all the gold that ever was beneath the moon
Will never grant them rest!”

We left that circle & its endless scuffle
To walk on ever deeper thro’ the flame
Descending to a greater wretchedness
Entering marshy STYX beside a gloomy stream,
Gurgling Purple

This circle’s inhabitants are the Angry
Smiting each other in the sucking slime
Head, hand, breast

Virgilius turns to me & sings,
“These signal wings will sweep us deeper through the grand malign”

Phylegyas crosses the dismal hollow in his dirty, little boat
Single silent oarsmen guides us down a stagnant channel…
Defiant fallen angels mount approaching iron walls
Our poet pipes a ballad of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell
Whose memory demands those daemons let us pass this day
Thus we found unhappy Dis, woeful Satanic stronghold

From tower’s top three blood-stain’d furies wail
Tesiphore, Alecto & Megaera
Naked-breasted, Hydra-hair’d, black tongues rasping
“Summon Medusa to turn these fools to stone!”

“Turn thy back,” said the poet, “& shut thine eyes,
Lest the Gorgon show herself & trap us here forever!”

Hand-blinded we hurried on ‘til they were safe to open
Before a flamey plain full of pain & torment

“Who are these buried in those open, funerary chests?”
“They are the self-deluding, messianic, arch-heretics,
Tardisesque their followers are buried deep beside them”

Further into the Morning Star’s domain
Scatter’d massive mountains of red & ruin’d rocks
One was thus inscribed,
‘I hold pope Urban II
Whom Adolfus Hitler drew from the straight path’

‘This marker means we soon shall reach darkest depths of evil
Come let us rest awhile beside this unbelieving pope.”

Our spirits scent-adjusted to the vile stench of the Devil
We drew a breath of stagnant air & puked into the Pit
Gunk tumbling down a cliff face, three terraces divided

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