Oh, Hell I Guess…

dante-inferno
Dante has his seven circles
Homer his Hades, Isaiah his Sheol,
Jesus a Gehenna of unquenchable fires,
Muhammad a threatening Jahannam,
and John a Lake of sulfuric Fire
for a Disney Land of torturous pain
too much for old-school ameliorists
just wishing for annihilation or the
Great Nothing which means so much
more nothing when capitalized, and
it’s Joseph who gives us two hells – one
temporary for pain and anguish in-between
and romantically tolerable like another
purgatory, but the other a serious forever
of outer darkness for Saints gone astray
or souls beyond their reach or anyone’s;

we have nothing of the kind today,
no gnashing of teeth, unquenchable fire
to torment the wicked and straighten
our ways today by some pragmatic and
self-audited karma of paying it forward
to match the bitch of being paid back,
or peril of judgment tomorrow or
the childhood threat of Santa keeping lists,
instead we have dreams of nothing
like falling asleep – a long rest
or life simply not being so complicated,
a benign-ness beyond feeling, even a light
that everyone wants to walk toward
all met by the certainty of some
that the world is ever-worse
because hell is no more and you’ll see;

but what if – and this is what sticks – what if
even a hint is true of the unknowable,
that’s Pascal’s wager I guess because that’s
all it can be – a guess of what I should
or ought or must do today
while Joseph’s haunting outer darkness
makes me wonder of an even more
lost and irredeemable wilderness,
something beyond the imagination
and that’s what keeps me wanting,
guessing, believing there is more to
believing than believing in hell.

Advertisements

The Fork

Tucked in the drawer crammed with a potato peeler,
can opener with that spot of insistent rust I rub away,
three different thermometers that I can’t remember
ever using, and so many oddly shaped and hardly used
utensils that only but don’t really fit here is the fork;
it’s heavy and strong enough to lift a bowling ball
or a roast or whole turkey if I were strong enough to
lift such things, and it’s used just once or twice a year
when all my kids somehow wander back home for
Thanksgiving or Christmas (but not both these days);
but this isn’t November or December, the can opener
has a replacement but sits here as a backup just in case
and, no, I won’t throw it away even though it rusts
because we’ll all be thankful when it’s needed and
the kids come home and I get to use the fork again.

Frank has a story…

Everybody Needs a Story

Frank said that the young boy
that he used as a guide was too easily distracted
and got bored quickly, leaving the sightless Frank
all alone, stranded in shops or sitting in the park,
and that bothered him;
but he was a tough guy, it seems, with a story, and
as any grandfather would say, interesting people
always have a story and that explains so much;

Frank lost an eye in an accident when
he was just a child, and then he lost the use of the other
in a boxing match as a teenager,
and I can’t imagine what he was doing
in a boxing match with one eye, but he could, and did,
and that’s Frank, I guess;

he heard that somewhere in Europe
dogs were being trained as guides for WW I veterans
blinded by mustard gas, so
Frank sent word that he’d really love
one of those dogs, and they sent him Buddy
who was the first one of its kind in this country,
all because Frank knew to ask, and
Buddy became so famous that when he died
newspapers ran an obituary for him
because even Frank’s Buddy had a good story,
and I decided I’d better get working on mine.

When Lincoln wasn’t famous…

Lincoln as a Boy

They say that for a famous man
it is unusual to know so little about his youth,
what it was like in Hodgenville,
when did he grow so tall and gangly
and did other children mock him and
why he was so fond of the axe,
and what of the rusticness of his birth
in a log cabin, or the sadness of his heart
when his mother died when he
was just nine years old,
and what he learned in just one year
of schooling that made him think
he could just show up one day
in New Salem and make it his land;
I tell my children they aren’t this lucky
because we wrote down everything
they did and said and photographed
their first and every step after that
with such duty that they can’t
escape their past
so they shouldn’t even try.

Beetle me this…

BeetleBeetle, Beetle

Alone, still and solitary
this beetle clinging effortlessly
to the brick of my garage
on a hot summer’s night;
you don’t move, even
when I wave a finger close,
no response, nothing.

Where do you find others,
a mate, a friend even
(maybe beetles don’t
need friends, but that
would be too sad), where
are the others beetle?

Jet black back, sleek
and looking fast but
for naught; you haven’t
budged a bit as I revisit
you hours later for no
reason but to see if
you’re still there beetle.