Now that I have discovered my Catholic and Protestant ancestors I know it is time to consider what hell must be like.
I know it is not fire and brimstone, that went the way of old lore when the Impressionists came along.
So I imagine Hell must be very much like getting caught looking at the new cars in the showroom while you wait for your car to be serviced, having already figured out how you will raise the money to buy it back.
The devil is defnitely the nice young salesman who knows just what you want in a new car even though you have no idea, what options you obviously need, and before you know it he has you at his desk discussing how you can finance the car that you did not want and cannot afford after buying your old car back.
From the heart of the inferno Dante and Lucifer grow bored waiting, waiting for the ferry while Charon stops for lunch yet again at a Greek diner in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. They take up a game of catch tossing Molotov cocktails, raining fire onto the brimstone, setting the Styx ablaze. Each knows this is not necessary, for necessity is a creature of heaven and there is no room for the extraneous here in the realm of forgotten souls. We watch from deep within a nightmare of our darkest memories, certain that heaven must await us, or purgatory if that is how our fate is to finally be written. The angels dance on the ceiling waiting for the precise moment to break Morpheus’ grasp and drag us back to our reality, to continue our dance between heaven and hell.
I would like to go back to the days when, after a fire reduced a commericial building to charred rubble, the onlookers and the gawkers wondered if it was an angry customer or employee, or sloppiness or poor maintenance.
Now, we watch as the fire marshals comb through the ashes and the rubble, looking not only for the source of the flames but also the accelerant, always wondering as we do just how the business was doing and if not well, did the owner at least pay up on his fire insurance.
I set out this morning with my large dictionary to find the perfect word to describe the sky, the sun just peering over the roof of a distant house, the few clouds aflame in a silent fire.
I knew there was a word for what I saw in the dictionary, for there is a word for everything if you search long and hard enough, but after a while I gave up when I realized I could no longer recall what I had seen that set me off on this search.
The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
It is that magical hour of the day when the sun sets the pond’s surface ablaze. The fountain in the middle shoots drops of liquid fire into to sky, only to watch them return to their now fiery home. This magic only lasts a few moments before the water returns to its natural state, and for yet another day, extinguishes the sun.