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 18-22
So many honey-dipped cries
rise from this filth. Maybe I've only grown
too accustomed to my lying eyes.
I lie and lay wherever I fall.
What is vision? What is dream?
All madness born again.
I am eight steps away from where
I never hoped to be—hopeless rings!
Everywhere I turn I smell my stink.
This living nightmare continues
now through livid stone.
The ring widens, and through cracks
men, women fall, some head heavy with gold.
They topple into fiery water.
Their feet bob between flames.
I carelessly walk along a cracked pier.
One hails me with a bitter smirk..
He thinks I am a bad pope.
I laugh—what absurdity!
My shadow reappears, admonishes:
"Answer quick that you are not he!"
My laughter fills my ears,
stops my tongue.
I believe in no future but the tortured
faces, the strained voices before me.
In this twentieth verse of an ancient rime
I've become numb to suffering.
The cries now are like twittering birds.
There's Tiresias. Hah! A blind old hag
fondling wrinkled dugs, a flaccid penis.
Others too. Sybil, Cassandra, Madame Blavatsky,
their heads spinning, minds reversed.
I'm stumbling again. Better not
to know the next step's fall.
The demons are legion.
Is this chronic dementia?
My shadow tells me: "Pay no mind.
Their threats will not reach us."
As if shadows could speak.
As if I could sleep dreamless.
As if suffering is a cure.
I misstep again and float
motionless over a sea of eyes.
The damned fight each other
severing limbs, gouging eyes,
slashing ears—all fall
into the burning lake.
Devils' wings beat above,
create waves where the dead
dive like dolphins at sea.
My shadow talks with them.
They brag of their past powers,
pride arrived, justified.
This folly of their eye, I.
It's all so pointless, I mean
this rise and fall of flesh,
these endless twists in my dream-ravaged head,
this sea of snakes roiling, molting.
©2016 Joseph Lisowski