Inferno: Canto 26

The prisoners are lugging a cauldron of soup
Suspended from a sagging bamboo pole
That’s stretched across their emaciated shoulders.

The one in his twenties beseeches the one in his teens:
“You must remember these verses, dear Pikolo.
It’s what Ulysses says to shore up his crew:

Consider well the seed that gave you birth:
You were not made to live your lives like beasts,
But to be followers of worth and knowledge.”

All the way to the Lager they sing those lines,
Lugging a cauldron of soup that hangs from a pole
Suspended between their skeletal shoulder blades.

Just My Imagination

I was back in Winthrop, driving though the town
Where I grew up. The radio’s off, but passing
By the brand new high school it’s vintage Motown

Comes blaring through the Bose speakers in Neil
Shapiro’s yellow Camaro. The top is down.
It’s nineteen seventy-one. We’re taking a “beach check.”

The great Temptations are singing as if they could drown
In the waves of what keeps running away with them.
I love the way they stretch out the crucial noun:

Imagin—a—tion. The girls on their towels are lying
Face-up or face-down. Their skin is golden-brown.
Neil is the president of the senior class

Arlington National Cemetery

Ó-po-po whispered my Arcadian father
As the four of us came over the dazzling slope
Of freshly mown grass aglitter with morning dew.

Open-mouthed, dactylic stress that keeps
The breathless canopy of trees idyllic,
Exactly like in Poussin’s painting, where shepherds

Puzzle over an ancient tomb inscribed
Et in Arcadia ego, not knowing what
On earth it means in their neoclassical Eden.

My staggered father knew, yet didn’t know,
From World War II, that there could be so many—
So many snow-white crosses, and all of them staked