What a city I murmur to myself looking at its map.
We approached the city known as Dis,
with its vast army and its burdened citizens.
At last we reached the moats
dug deep around the dismal city.
What destroys the poetry of a city?
Automobiles destroy it,
and they destroy more than the poetry.
Dante and Virgil chased by 7 or 8 dangerous devils
Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, ***** . . .
Then there’s Aaron whose Latin teacher announced to the whole class
he got a poor participation grade because he acts like a *****.
Our heroes reduced from metaphysical philosophers
interested in god and what man has done to man
to improvising primitive tools for survival.
Hope abandoned, we rate our chances of expiring
in the nuclear fire – excellent –
during the decline of western civilization.
On the other hand, I hope
our current problems are only temporary
and it’s just a matter of time until
the public learns to ignore the 24-hour news cycle.
Bad news sells
but the good life’s all around us.
One feels love and devotion
even for the 60 million who voted for our opponent.
Vaclav Havel said
with a wisdom well beyond brilliance:
“Either we have hope within us or we don’t.
It is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not dependent
on some particular observation of the world
or estimate of the situation.
It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart
that transcends the world as it’s immediately experienced.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense
no matter how it turns out.”
It resembles grief. But it's not quite grief. I'll give you grief.
Certain days planned to be eventful I look forward to for weeks.
Let the peaceful transfer of power proceed. The sorrow and the pity.
Never may the anarchic man find rest at my hearth.
When the laws are kept, how proudly the city stands!
When the laws are broken, what of the city then?
We are moving through some allegory between a City of Hope,
where history has been abolished, and a City of History,
where hope can be slipped in only as contraband.
Failing to achieve understanding, we're searching
outer space for an entity to unite us as humanity.
That person, or city, is consciousness.
Two ancient female poets are a revelation,
the clarity of their complaints: lost lover, lost city.
Our enemy eventually becomes our brother,
his misery lifted by coming to her city.
--Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto VIII, Italian, trans. Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander, Anchor Books, 2000.
--Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, Poetry Flash, November 1998
--Havel, Vaclav, Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala, Vintage Books, 1991.
--Iyer, Pico, The Man Within My Head, Vintage Books, 2013
--Sophocles, Antigone, Greek, trans. Dudley Fitts & Robert Fitzgerald from The Oedipus Cycle: An English Version, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1939.