The Poet Loses to Grief

by Brandon Stanley

Among a torrent of tears, and the shifting of time's gears. The living remain navigating seas of sorrow, With eyes that long for no tomorrow. Wetting lines of worry on woeful faces, The Poet made a deal with the minions of the devil. Flowing with the justice only natural to those who are a little evil, Threatening a prince of hell, That he would rob the supplicants of Bel. Hell Prince, Abraxas came to him in the circle of the blood-sigil, speaking in Enochian, With warnings and offers, amid promises of political jockeying Unmoved in purpose and cynical in creed, the Poet plotted Machiavellian. The demon dared him, with mocking laughter and sick smiles, Exhaling the stench of the reviled. But the poet was unmoved, For the taste of his late love's aspiration was fresh in his mouth. His ears filled with the sucking of failed lungs, Eyes burned with the image of a noose hanging in a common closet by the lowest rung. He had seen demons of men and monsters of humanity, As Abraxas led him to the shores of Lethe, which he refused to drink, and the dread, still Styx. He stared a few miles, sighting the dark ramparts of Dis, Holding his coins to the fore. To pay passage across the abysmal watery gorge, The thick air filling with the crying of the tormented and wails of the shades. Sputtering snores and groans sounded from the sleeping men of old, While Charon reached with greedy bones seeking the Poet’s gold. The boatman's black eyes thrice lit in flame, As the croaking voice spoke the Poet’s name. Thrice it creased its teeth and bathed him in decay's stink. The stalactites hung low over the mire, With dew of melancholy dripping from inverse spires. “Tears cried from countless lives feed the stream that keeps the immortal damned from seeing mortal eyes; Saving the mortal from a death of countless terrors thereby.” Spoke Charon, like a bellows basso tinged with disease. The Poet spent a moment surveying the sight, Selfsame that Lucifer saw after betraying divine light. Volcanoes erupted outside the ramparts, spitting up tormented souls, Who gathered on igneous rock as flesh chased charred bones. Bit by anatomical bit, joining tendons to singed bone, forming humans again, Each screaming aloud, and those without speech, searing cries into a poetical mind. Here was the sublime realm, anti-divine, anti-paradise, Where past pains of life are magnified by eternal strife. The passage was slow as ghoulish hands reached for the boat. “Many mortals attempted to pass, laden down with sins past. I will throw you not. Keep the eyes steady or you will sin as did Lot's wife. Why do you come to the realm of the dead?” “I saw not God’s spirit in the world, while serpents of fate spit out the hot and the cold, Hearing only lukewarm platitudes to those exiled from the human fold. You took a woman, non-discerning wretch. You took her across”. “What is one fair young face among the faceless? What is one in the many billions; the young, the old the innocent, the guilty- that ever-growing mob.” Hands reached from the non-reflective ichor, As they tried to bring the boat to anchor. A deafening Wrath hung in the air. Consumed, the Poet tossed the Boatman over the side. Into the post-mortal tide, and wrenching arms of most vile things. Then the shore beckoned undefended, With a far-off hint of the glint of hell-swords and brimstone.

This is an opening to a longer narrative poem. It focuses on the quest of the Poet to find the soul of his lover in hell. Here, he crosses to the realm of the damned and begins his journey.

Brandon Stanley has published several poems, two short stories, and a history podcast episode.

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