In Dante’s Inferno, when trying to describe,
the houses of Hell’s lamentations
the torments, the trials, laid quick to ascribe
amidst the curses and blessings of nations
Where above good St. Peter looks on from afar
with the Righteous who have given their life
their path it is lit by the Bright Morning Star
who keeps at bay all their trouble and strife.
What then is this Hell, the unpitying flood
from the banks and the ditches of pain
with the splinters from hawthorns, the flesh and the blood
cries for comfort, for comfort, in vain
so what is this Hell, but a Syrian child
playing with friends, in a city, or town
whose legs are blown off, by a war raging wild
as the bombs and the missiles rain down.
This Hell, that guides the tongues of the rich
who proclaim from the pulpits and stage
through the eye of a needle, a flick of the switch,
as this Hell is spelled out on the page
Meanwhile, in another place, to the West and the South
in Civilisation’s Crucible’s dust
another child lays starving, with wide open mouth
where this Hell is in want of a crust.
In Dante’s Meridian, the voiceless and quiet
where the summit is reached with his eyes
and false gods stand angry, most ready to riot
where the tiny flames buzz round like flies
Yet Hell here, defined as a line to a pit
where destinations are summarised in sentence
and the walls built to protect those determined most fit
are paid with wages of sin and repentance.
Where is this Hell, we’re most eager to find
if in the Book we can determine or measure
the disgruntled, the outraged, all one of a kind
find succour in life’s juicy pleasure
For Dante, he searched and stretched his mind’s eye
while his feet sought to gain final entry
for the Righteous, the Pure, they need not hear the cry
of the children who starve by the century.
The children, the children, the children you say,
playing games while the Earth is parlaying
who will fulfil their own calling as guileless they play
while rulers count fortunes delaying
This Hell that awaits is already here,
for the children who can’t see tomorrow
the trafficked, the stolen, their eyes filled with fear,
who yearn for a life they can borrow.
And finally Dante, with his glorious rhymes
while the greats subjugate to his stature
sallies forth from the torment of his turbulent times
and scrapes his fingers at his first fallen nature
While Hell, such as it is, neatly tied in a knot,
while the children of nations, implore us
as we look away, to view all that we’ve got
and ignore what is dying before us.
© copyright – Stephen Newman 2019