Michael Palmer

Fragment after
Dante

And I saw myself in the afterlife of rivers and fields
among the wandering souls and light-flecked paths.

There I was amazed to find
the damned and the innocent

commingled so, torturers and victims,
masters, sycophants and slaves

idling arm in arm, chatting
about nothing, about the fullness and ripeness

of nothing, the pleasures of the day
and of the hearth fires to follow

in the evening calm.
And they turned to me as one

and I heard their words, their
calls, each syllable, each phrase

but could not make them out.
And I saw myself struggling to wake,

howling and foaming like a dog,
biting at empty air.