Today's poem is by Benjamin Myers
The first. I heard of Dante
was at the county fair when I was ten,
Dante's Inferno slashed in red on a black
trailer at the bottom of the hill
where they showed the livestock.
It was surrounded by little lights
like the blinking eyes of the damned
and booths with stacks of old-fashioned
milk bottles: two dollars for
three throws and you could win
a mirror painted with the rebel
flag or with a half-naked lady,
or with a naked lady half-wrapped
in the rebel flag. I wanted
to go on the Ferris Wheel,
for the way it turned above
the noise and the smell
of manure and funnel cakes,
how it reminded me
of a queen I saw
in a movie once, raising
her head to meet the eye
of the executioner.
My friends wanted the thrill
of Dante's trailer, where shrieks
and groans from a cone speaker
mixed with bleats drifting
down from sheep on the hill.
This was the summer
Nick O'Hare's cousin
after graduation, and a drought
set in that left the earth
cracked and flaked like old paint.
But there wasn't a war then.
I stood in line looking out
over cars parked on dead grass,
their jagged rows like gravestones,
two big crows perched
on the utility pole at the center.
Years later, there is a copy
of La Commedia on my desk
while I write this, and two
more editions on the shelf,
but I'm thinking of how we entered
the Inferno two at a time
in little cars on a greasy track,
how a bar lowered across our laps
and two black doors swung open
as we watched our friends
before us disappear around a dark curve.
Copyright © 2013 Benjamin Myers All rights reserved
from Lapse Americana
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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