The thing about hell
Is that you’re stuck
Unlike purgatory where you
Break fiery rocks until
You’ve worked off the venial
Sins or someone still on earth
Offers up indulgences, the
Jesus, Mary, Joseph recited
A thousand times until Luther
Nailed them to the church door
Declaring faith without works is fine.
In hell, you’ll burn
Unlike limbo where
The unbaptized languish
Behind bars proclaiming
An innocence that doesn’t matter
According to papal decree.
In hell, the flames
And various Dantesque agonies
Are less appalling than Sartre’s
Discovery: how there’s no exit
And here you are forever
With all the other people.
The thing about hell
Is also the thing about heaven.
Thanks to Jehovah for the manna
In the desert. Thanks to the weir tree
For protection, to the fox for cunning,
To the wolf for loyalty. And thanks
To Chac for trading rains for virgins,
To Zeus for propagation, Aphrodite
For beauty, Mars for valor, Atalanta
For good hunting, to coyote for trickery.
Thanks to Poseidon for the oceans, to the moon
And the sun, the goddesses of flowers,
To Kali armed with death, to Bee Man Krishna,
And Buddha who never wished to be a deity.
To the Mother of Wiccans, to the Lord of the
Pilgrims, to Allah the One and Jesus of
Nazareth. To the saints and madonnas,
The spirits of the waters, to all who may
Listen and to those who turn their heads.
And thanks most of all
To the scale of the tragicomic
God of fifty-fifty.
Sweet Lord of Luck.
IN THE LORD’S STABLES
A small chap with pale eyes.
His wife, a blowsy woman twice
his size. He prides himself
When I worked for Lord Derby
pronounced in the proper English
fashion, and tells stories of the
great Hyperion for whom his one-horse
stable has been named.
A subject of mild derision:
Remember when those two ran
a head-shop up north peddling bongs.
The shabby house they rent, filthy,
(though he is always neat) his wife’s
bred to kill lions. At the dispersal
of a large estate where he once worked,
I buy a black mare and he’s upset
You ought to bought Cassandra as well, them
two as is mates, his posh accent
slipping into Cockney.
The pair of them: a devious reputation.
The slow trust-fund girl they claim
to be their ward. The stud they stand
His granddam sister to the granddam
of Northern Dancer though he has small use
for upstarts. His heart belongs to
Blenheim and Sir Galahad, the blooded
legends. As he rakes his shedrow
in careful patterns, I can see
the child groom he used to be
laboring in the great lord’s stables.