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Francis Levy's Divine Comedy PDF E-mail

 

                                                  Francis Levy’s Divine Comedy


 

 

Inferno, Canto 1

 

 

Seven Eighths of the way through my journey

(an overly optimistic figure some had cautioned)

I found myself in a darkened box

in which the inner workings of my heart

would be read

 

I was old enough to flirt with Dante

(like Beatrice)

I boldly compared myself to Augustine

Was I headed for heaven or hell

(on a daily basis)?

or isn’t Limbo where the unbaptized land

 

it’s like applying to colleges

you dream of heaven

expect at least Purgatory

and allow yourself the delusion

that you’re doing pretty good

if you land in the first circle of hell

(if you look at the curve it’s almost

a B plus)

 

on a cloudy day not in the month

of May, but sullen and humid,

the kind of day you would have hopelessly walked

in Central Park, a beer in a brown bag,

looking for your Beatrice decades before

you had finally lived

 

“in dreams begin responsibilities,” Delmore Schwartz said

revelations pass by and unless I scribble them

down they’re gone for good like cotton balls

at this stage where only the engraved long term

memories remain

 

abracadabra no magic was going to occur

I had to carefully vet the minutes and seconds

as they flashed across the scrim of consciousness

and the empty seats at the table

a full accounting was required

 

I still travelled,

but unlike Aquinus employed neither reason nor faith

my solitary arrival greeted by the same Dunkin’ Donuts

my beginning was the end

hindsight always being 20/20

there were no choices

I arrived fresh from the factory with a lifetime warranty

I would be this way

 

That’s what this hell

must be

stranger anxiety

you remember Capgras

and prosopagnosia

where the face is inhabited by an imposter

or someone you can’t recognize.

 

I spot the faces of infamous

fictive sinners,

who’ve aided and abetted

there’s Babbitt and Rabbit

and there’re all the reviled

and detested Inquisitors who’ve

boiled us in oil, those

whose fuel is indifference and scorn

and the failure to appreciate

worthy talent, those

who never respond to e mails or return

calls

 

and then there are the guiltless

transgressors

who are even

praised for their artful

seductions,

insouciant and merry

even their castaways

clapping for them

their legacy of destruction

rewarded

 

it was worse that I was no longer

fueled by envy

the pathetic creatures

who employed

randy swordsmen

in rusting armor

I’m no better

is the real surprise

I’m one of them

in thought if not in deed

but it doesn’t really

matter since I will never

see any of them again

(either on earth or in hell)

 

you attain that point of maturity

when people pass into

oblivion before they die

they’re unrecognizable

and sometimes you even can’t

remember them

what day is it?

Thursday all day,

 

I’m at the beginning of

my daily journey, the number 6

on the Lexington Avenue line

it’s just another day

like the reduction of a gravy

sardined in among the straphangers

and claustrophobic in my isolation

 

once upon a time in Paris

I might have been a message

shot through a pneumatic tube

“Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you”

“only connect”

genocide

under where?

 

though all these memories are destined for

oblivion it’s a paradox (of the one in the infinite)

that the Peters, Johns, Jim, Helen, Mikes, Bettys

are the slide show

that keeps making passes at me

the homunculus,

but I fell in love with a

succubus, mon semblable,

mon soeur,

messieur,

garcon,

s’il vous plait!

 

we keep our illusion of cosmic

importance until the very end

what do you think makes a dying person

want to live?

and after it is all over Twitter

will continue to notify me

“you have new followers”

 

hell is not other people

it’s feeling invisible or

returning to your sacred Indian

burial grounds and

not recognizing a single spirit

(just the predicament that

Cosmo Topper faced),

dust jackets of Ellison’s The Invisible Man

Notes From the Underground,

in packing boxes

and toys in the attic

 

that the great man brought

at the airport

in Through a Glass Darkly

it was a mockery

I remember as a 5 year old falling in love with a pair

of cowboy boots

which I had to have

and which I made my beleaguered

grandmother, who would be dead five years later, buy for me

 

I’m just another sinner

carrying this remorse

on my back

as I trudge through hell,

more dreams of my mother

being dreamy

in last night’s she was looking for my

lost jockstrap

and found only a waistband

the cup in which my balls

would have been cradled

was gone

don’t smile at the banality of the significance

 

dreams are overrated

they’re like middle management

mine tend not to be biblical and prophetic

they don’t carry much weight

I continue to embarrass myself

and even at this late date

make life a living hell

in which there’s no Virgil to turn to

 

I was never made for mentoring

and take solace only

in a long undisturbed sleep that will require

no nobody,

purgatory, hell and heaven

ultimately are only

the creation of the living

they’re the stuff of poetry

of imagination

no?

 

it’s not so much the memories

but the heavy mud covered boots

that make the trudging forward

so difficult

that I was sure I would

be stopped in my tracks

as if I were wading through

quicksand

or fallen into a sink hole

one day I would make

my final step

into oblivion

 

I would be like the ash

hanging off a Gauloise

but I hadn’t even decided

on burial or cremation

it was an on going

discussion

the question of whether my Beatrice

and I would be buried together

or our ashes simply disseminated
had little to do with the final

journey (if there was something

other than oblivion in store for

 

 

we nevertheless met

to discuss our arrangements

at the very funeral

parlor on Amsterdam Avenue

in which our

mourners would some day obligatorily

file in

between therapy

and the gym

 

it’s just like candles

being snuffed

the way the smoke trails into

the air

leaving the blackened wick

 

the moment you’re born

you begin to die

and embark upon

the long convalescence

you call your life

holding a statue in

your hand as you stand

before the cameras

trying to parse the illegible

scribble on a piece of

scrap paper

in the dream

 

 

Francis Levy is the author of the comic novels Erotomania: A Romance and Seven Days in Rio and the author of the blog The Screaming Pope which also appears on The Huffington Post.

 
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