Zbignew's Inferno
by Zbignew Zingh
May 16, 2004

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(With a nod and a deep apology to Dante Alighieri, b.1265 d.1321)

Dante wrote his Divine Comedy more than 500 years ago. In the Inferno, part one of the three part allegorical poem, Dante described how while walking through the woods he became lost. Confronted by two wild beasts, Dante began to run. He ran deeper into the swamp and became hopeless and confused. In the depth of despair, the shade of the deceased Roman poet Virgil appears and leads him out of the swamp by taking Dante on a journey through Hell. Dante created an underworld with different levels of punishment. He populated the descending rings of the Inferno with people from Dante's own society: the villains and wrongdoers of early Fourteenth Century Italy. Dante placed them in their appropriate circles of Hell, each subject to the personalized punishment suited to their vices. At the center of Hades, Dante put the most evil people eternally devoured and re-devoured by Satan. Were Dante alive in the Twenty-First Century, might this be the Inferno he would have written?

Canto I


More than two hundred years into the history of this land

I found myself in a dismal, uncharted swamp

for I had strayed too far from the Founders' way.

How I had gotten here, I do not know,

I was drowsing so soundly up to this point that I don't know just when, or where,

I wandered from the path.

I stopped to rest, to think upon an exit plan

when there behind a Bush I saw a red-eyed, Republihyena

gnashing its teeth, scratching the dirt, as though it would attack.

I turned to run, but there, too, stood another one

as red-eyed as the first,

with somewhat blunter teeth, a neo-Democrat.

But as I ran and stumbled through the muck running to save my life,

in front of me I saw a form of someone

tall in a suit and stovepipe hat.

I cried out, “Save me,

whoever you are, a ghost

or shade of long ago!”

He said, “I am, or was, your leader once,

Abe Lincoln was my name

and as your President I fought that

government Of the People, By the People and For the People

shall not perish from this earth”.

“Then tell me, Abe, you see our peril,

the beasts that bar the way,

show me the exit from this swamp.”

Abe said, “there is another way that you must travel

if you want to save your soul because these beasts

will not let any pass along the way without exacting tolls.

“And so,” he said, “You should now follow me

through an infernal place

where you will see and hear the Hell

Of hopeless men, and C.E.O.s,

and scheming politicians,

There's nothing worse you'll ever see,

but there's no other path to home.”

I said, “I am afraid to walk through Hell,

but here's more fearful still.”

He led, I followed, we walked for miles

through muck and lies and Foggy Bottom,

until, at last, we came upon the gates of the Inferno.


Canto 2



I saw these words flash through the mist

on neon Golden Arches,

“Now enter through the gates of Hell,”

said Abe, “be strong and be courageous.”

I heard at once the sighs and moans and wailing in the air.

Like dust whipped up by swirling wind,

cries swirled around my ears.

“Who are these spirits, President Abe?,” I asked my guide and mentor.

“These are the small-souled, waffling folk,” Abe said,

they groveled all their lives and now, in death, they still aren't there.

These are the ones who did not think

about much more than lawns or

whether this team won or that team lost,

Half-man, half-sheep, and half asleep,

In life, like death, they're just not there.

So let's move deeper into Hell.”

But as we passed, I saw the shades of folk I knew,

forever stuck 'twixt light and dark,

not visible in life

forever on the sidelines,

their gearshifts stuck in 'park'.


Canto 3


Sharon, boatman of Hell, rowed us 'cross the sulfurous stream

into the first hot ring of Hell, a barb-wired, walled off Western Bank,

where I could see

the businessmen who outsourced jobs, finagled shares or

looted pension funds.

There was Ken Lay and Frank Quattrone and here the GAP stores' C.E.O.

There were the off-shore toy makers, and Nike's Knight

and all the rest, lashed to their factory sewing machines

from dusk to dawn and dawn to dusk,

their sweatshop labors supervised by

dark-skinned little boys and girls whose

skinny bodies barely lived so that

These men who lived like Kings could own their yachts and summer homes,

But here, in Hell, the table's turned, and here the Kings would groan.

I stopped in awe, but Honest Abe

bade me move on,

“The trip is long and arduous.”

He led me to another ring where dwelt the fallen angels.


Canto 4


It was so cold inside this ring, it made my fillings tingle,

the crusted ice was everywhere, my glasses misted over.

Yet deep inside the glacier pack I peered, and what a shock I had!

For there were Democrats glazed in,

Tom Daschel and Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman and Clinton,

and all those U.S. senators who favored Negroponte

as procounsel in Baghdad;

And there, as well, like Popsicles, were all the neo-liberal fools

who, in their speeches, chastened Bush

but did just as he wished,

voting for war, liberals nevermore,

they passed the Patriot Act.

Their tongues were blue, their blood was cold, their brains too neo-conned to function,

for this, and for their craven votes, their souls lay chilled

as icicles, their voters lost to Nader.

“Let us move on,” said Honest Abe,

“there's worse to see than this.”


Canto 5


We stumbled out of frozen waste and entered yet another ring

of Hell, the place where hypocrites were quartered.

I saw there shades of powerful men, all suffering tortures made for them,

For Roger Noriega's deeds, he was reborn as Aristide,

and Colin Powell and Richard Perle, both locked inside Abu Ghraib;

and there John Ashcroft running scared

from those whose bodies had been bared,

Ms. Jackson, with her chest revealed, from Howard Stern, his foul mouth blared.

And there! There were the New York Times and CNN reporters,

hounded by the wailing souls of dead Iraqi soldiers,

and Afghan boys, and our GI s and mothers, fathers, daughters,

all burnt by bombs, DU-ed alive, now dead they cursed the Media.

The screams and smells were almost worse than any man could stand,

“Abe Lincoln, say, was it this bad when we had civil war?”

“All war is Hell,” Abe Lincoln said, “It was bad then;

but when you fight for only Oil, your hell's much worse.

“Let's now move on,” Abe Lincoln said,

“we must move deeper down.”


Canto 6


We walked for miles, or so it seemed,

through sulfurous clouds of gas

until we came into a land too dry, too parched for life;

It was that part of Hades where lost souls were packed like lice.

Here dwelt the Engineers of Money,

Greenspan, Rubin, Milton Friedman,

Flayed alive by Adam Smith, punched and kicked by Marx and Lenin.

Here also dwelt the court advisers, counselors, courtiers, and the others;

Condi Rice and Chalabi, Richard Helms and Karl Rove, too;

Elliot Abrams, William Frist, Tom De Lay, and Jeb Bush, who

were punished till the end of time,

made to live in Palestine,

Falluja, Haiti, and Kabul,

amongst the ruins of the homes destroyed by these folks'

deeds and crimes.

But Abe and I kept walking through until we saw another stew

of cursed and burning souls.

They were the motley talk show fools,

the wrathful and the sullen:

Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, Savage, too;

Rupe Murdoch and the Sinclair crew,

they boiled together in poisonous brew, the tools of propaganda.

But still Old Abe bid me to walk, we had further to go.

“Continue on,” he urged me now, “and do not look too long

for there are meaner things that lie ahead and paths yet you must follow.”

And so we plowed on through the fog into a hotter hollow.

Canto 7

The stench was strong, the smoke was thick, I could not see one step before the other;

and thus I almost tripped upon these shades who scurried

back and forth

for they were humans once, now dogs,

mangy, old, all biting one another.

There ran a dog like Tony Blair, and one like Berlusconi,

There ran Musharraf on a leash, and Fox, too, had his tether,

and on all fours, there ran Ansar and Gloria Arroyo;

Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and Bogota's Uribe,

housebroken pets like poodle dogs at the Westminster dog show.

They barked and yelped and tried to speak but made no human sounds,

for they had sold their souls for gold and now they lived in pounds

no longer fit to be with men, just fit to beg and grovel.

I almost stopped to pet their heads, but didn't when I heard

old Honest Abe say “Touch them not! They're rabid! Let us leave!”

So left we did, my guide and me, and trekked into the heat

of hotter, darker bowels of Hell

where worse mens' souls reside.


Canto 8


The ground was hard and strewn all 'round with shards of broken glass

like streets of inner cities where reside the poorer class.

This was, Abe said, the home in Hell of those who in their former lives

professed to know the way of truth, but in truth were False Prophets.

Turned into mothers on welfare:

Falwell, Zoellick, Franklin Graham;

pregnant all without health care.

There also I saw Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer and Don Rumsfeld,

without their clothes, hoods on their heads, being interrogated.

There also I saw Wall Street men, stock analysts and bankers;

false prophets to shareholders' dreams,

false profits they delivered.

The privatizers were there, too, who thought it was their right to loot

the air waves, space and land and sea; they did not give a hoot.

Now, all of them, lived in a slum, while acid rain

poured down on them and lead and arsenic soaked their boots;

The climate warmed, the waters rose, these people who denied it all

now had to swim forever.

Abe Lincoln told me “Let's Move On,

there's worse than this to come.”


Canto 9


We entered now the core of Hell,

the home of the most evil,

those who lied, and by their lies, destroyed the lives of others;

Here were betrayers of the creeds that each of them subscribed to;

the Christian word, Holy Koran, the U.S. Constitution.

They were all bound together in a single lump of flesh,

their bodies joined at the hip, one face pressed in the other,

two damned one and one damned them, all in the name of God;

Their bodies joined forevermore, blasting each others' fraud;

they unleashed all the dogs of war immiserating many.

The hottest bowels of Hell held here Osama, Bush and Cheney.

Joined in life and joined in war, their legacies united;

in truth, it showed the deeper truth: they were all evil brothers.

With blood and hate they sowed the earth, made so many downtrodden;

the victims of this trio's acts

cursed George, Dick and bin Laden.

So now, I'd seen the world of shades and all the pain within it,

I turned to Abe and asked him “Abe, what can we do?

Which way is out? Is this the end? What is there we can do?”

He said, “There's one way out; look past this ugly doom.

“There is a path, another way. Go! Walk out of this gloom!”

He pointed past the smoke-filled room: there was a tiny door.


Canto 10


I put my hand upon the knob, but I was scared – what might be there

on the other unknown side?

Abe urged, “Go on!

Don't be afraid! I, too,

would go, but I am dead, and only living Citizens can push on through this portal.

You need not be a Democrat, a Green or GOP man. You only need

a Backbone and the Will to make things better;

But if you don't walk forward now, you'll never leave this Hellhole.”

Admonished so, by Honest Abe, I grabbed and turned the door knob,

and stepped through to the other side where temperatures were cooler

I saw up in the sky the U.S. Constitution,

The Bill of Rights, The Rights of Man, The Writings of Tom Payne;

and Lincoln's Gettysburg address that proved that we weren't insane.

And fifty stars flashed through the air, each comet representing

good public schools and women's rights and universal health care.

A comet blazed for fair trade rules that trump the colonizers,

A blazing star to end disease, a star to end world hunger,

one star to cut the Third World debt,

one star for public water;

one star to ban the childrens' toil,

and 'rights' of Corporations;

one star to pass a living wage, one star to end all war,

one star to change our car-based life before we reach Peak Oil.

a star to ban all frankenfoods, a star for fair elections;

So many stars lit up the skies pointing in new directions.

My eyes were blinded by the light this other side of Hell,

This wasn't Paradise, I know,

more probably just Limbo;

But, damn, it was a better place than

PNAC'S World Inferno!

Zbignew Zingh can be reached at Zbig@ersarts.com. This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at www.ersarts.com.

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