Nail Chiodo

Lucus Feroniae

Canto VIII

"… Once, to my own stupefaction, I observed a devil
abandon the body of a woman I shared a bed with,
because it suffered not the unflinching kindness
and patience with which I was countering
the chronic condition of anger I had first found her in.
I am reluctant to think it was mental blindness
that kept her from noting the horned chimera
that escaped from her bosom: there is no camera
which could have recorded the image I recognized
as being of rage incarnate, and it would be
an understatement to say I myself could hardly
believe the monster I had unwittingly exorcized;
yet, as sure as she then let out a great sigh
of relief, it is certain that I, at least, clearly saw why!

“On another occasion, a personification of laziness
more horrid than sheer fantasy could have devised
appeared as if on a stage in front of my eyes
for my private scrutiny, to my utter amazement:
a square-jawed crone, ragged, disheveled,
the very portrait of Sloth at home in Hell;
it sat there hunchbacked upon a small stool
ranting, whining willful infirmity,
repeating incessantly and for all eternity
its refusal to do anything or even to move.
The faceless impresario who had set up the show
must have been determined that I should not disown
or put into question the reality of my vision
since, of a sudden, rays of coherent green light
shot straight out of my eyes and landed right
upon the pitiful figure, that it might be pinned on
my conscience for the rest of my days.

“The godhead—or whatever which way
you want to call the overpowering entity
that presides over such paranormal
activity in the brain—affixes moral
responsibility as a mark of identity.
It was Christ in person, according to Swedenborg,
who told him to stay away from the smorgasbord
and opened his season of divination galore.
Though my credibility be bound to suffer
amongst the atheists who have heard me thus far,
I too must claim to have perhaps seen Our Lord,
if only in profile and silhouetted.
Tall, thin, erect, with a hooked
nose and in a long cape, He pointed
to a round mark on the ground near His feet
(not unlike the spots at Saint Pete’s where Bernini’s
colonnades all radiate from and conjoin)
while these words came to me as if telepathically:
‘This is the place from which all things seem sad.’
My immediate, instinctive reaction was to step
back, away from that nerve-center of gloom;
and, in an instant, I was again safe in my room,
alone but for the bee that had been put in my bonnet.

“There was something peerless in the Shadow’s demeanor
that led me to believe it was Him I had seen,
just as the sentence that had been enounced
was charged with a unique authority;
the aquiline trait brought to mind the Florentine
forefather of all poets visionary, but I found
no reason in my heart to doubt it was Jesus.
Similarly, when I eventually took out a new lease
on life and traced my way back to that pole
of dismay, I discovered that it displayed no more
and no less than the whole human race run ashore,
dead as nails as it were, with myself as the sole
live witness left at the fatal end of its story;
then, in my arms, it was His body I did hold.

“One last episode and I shall have taken full stock
of my netherworld inventory as it now stands:
once, when I had been left to gather the strands
of an nth shattered hope, I perceived van Gogh’s
painting as I had never before or ever have since;
the pity encrypted therein caused me to wince
and to envisage, for a brief moment, what I gather
everyone might see when they finally meet up
with their Maker. It may seem like a storm in a tea cup
compared to the venerable archetypes on the matter,
because it involves but a single figurant,
who was under the spotlight for only a few instants;
yet, the quick appearance sufficed to convince me
of some of my own psyche’s fundamental convictions.
The figure—solitary and without other constrictions
than a white robe and a tragic mask of ancient Greek
inspiration—stands forth suddenly from behind
a shifting curtain of clouds of the cumulous kind;
it lets out a scream (of which I catch what sounds
like just the beginning) in an unheard-of register,
well beyond the compass of what can be considered
normally audible by human ears. Outside the bounds
of Earthly expectation in high pitch and volume,
it turns all bodily frame into fully dissoluble,
friable substance, scathed to pure naught
in fast-flying seconds by a wrathful wind
that the cry engenders; while minds get the full drift
of the agony and horror with which it is fraught.
Abomination that has been kept pent
since the immemorial origin of moral sentiment
invests in equal measure all those who stand before it,
reduces them to small heaps like cottage cheese
before they can even fall to their knees.
If I am right, prospects are not exactly florid;
but for all to whom ostentation in life caused disgust,
the one consolation shall be the voice is Just.

"Hello? Scotty? Are you listening?!”

Canto IX