Upper Hell





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,

A train of wretched shades by black & loathsome river

Where daemon upon 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 an old man who came over to greet us

His name was Homer, & we talked of poetry & of

Our noble school of eagle-song, then when converse done

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 line 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

Dante 6


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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