After growing up under the shadow of Heppenstall Steel Mill in Pittsburgh, Pa., I have spent much of my life near the sea, including 10 years in the Caribbean, which serves as the setting for my three published mystery novels, Full Body Rub, Looking for Lisa, and Looking for Lauren. On occasion, I've gone back "home," trying to fit into my old neighborhood. It has been alleged that I've had many aliases, none of which I have acknowledged. I am no one else. I now tutor writing at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Richmond, VA.
Shadow Self/Dante Dream 29-34
In the dark I hear
my brother's voice, drugged, bleating.
I learn his complaints by rote.
I hurry away, feel myself slip,
then swing on the rim of the eighth ring.
Other voices howl--alchemists, magicians, poets all.
I stop to listen,
see neither lead nor gold,
hear neither truth nor beauty,
only my brother's voice.
"Who in this world of misery
is exempt from pain?"
An imposter's rhetorical question
buzzes in my ears.
He craves only a drop of water,
rain, or even dew.
In this burning sea
I forget my name
and try to hide among others
who lie smoking, smoldering.
Their constant vomiting sounds like laughter.
My shadow finds me and orders me on.
In the ninth ring
a giant presses me close
to his chest and steps down.
What nonsense! I try to laugh,
failing breath. My shadow whispers,
"no more cries." It is an endless sigh
within the womb.
Enough is lost.
The lake shimmers like glass
frozen, giving off ghostly glows.
I stumble along its even rim.
A voice cries out below.
I kick a face bloody, blue.
"What's your name!" I shout.
"Tell me now!" I pull at hair.
There's no reply. I swing fist after fist,
look away to see two men struggling in ice.
My shadow and me, one head behind the other.
As if one wore a cowl, fangs sharp
with hunger, ripping, shredding the other's brains.
I don't know if I judge
or am judged, when I am
shadow, when self or many selves.
What's the sense of these multiple dramas
where I am every actor?
Now, I see myself as a man
locked in a tower. He is with
his four sons. I am each one.
They die one by one of starvation,
the old man last. He eats their
putrid flesh, gnaws the bones
until all is gone.
He starves but does not die.
Where is forgiveness? What remains
From deep darkness, depths of ice,
Lucifer, light bearer, rises
like a mountain, fast growing,
displacing the emptiness.
His three faces luminous, surreal.
I hang suspended, drifting in space
until my shadow anchors me.
We mount the back of darkness,
ascend the desperate gloom
behind Lucifer's scaly thighs.
His bat-like wings, large
as lakes, beat, beat, beat.
A vacuum that sucks all air.
In this terror, ice and fire disappear.
A sudden blast from his ass
shunts us out, in normal light, normal night.
(I get out of bed, look at stars,
hear a dog's bark far away.
I am only one, alone again.)
William Blake - Dante Running from the Three Beasts
©2016 Joseph Lisowski
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