This was an exercise that I did for a college classics class. I wrote it in imitation of the terza rima invented and employed by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. The rhyme scheme is thus ABA BCB CDC and so on. I also attempted to copy the poet’s device of contrapasso, in which a sinner’s eternal punishment in hell is suited to his crime.
And when I woke we stood upon a cliff’s edge
With nothing standing between us and the brink.
Down we slid, the doctor and I, ‘til the ledge
Was behind our hasty descent. And the stink
Of a boiling blood-lake assailed our senses
And red-raw grieving wails. My heart starts to sink.
The good doctor at my side quickly commences
To explain the dismayed sounds that fill my ears:
“The hidden massacre, of all offences
Most bloody, yet most beloved; childhood years
Cut short for convenience: abortion’s guilt
Drags here both women and men; boiling blood sears
Those who seared their conscience with infant blood, built
Lives off murder invisible. But the infants
Themselves, through God’s mercy, although their blood’s spilt
Before their time, live in His presence triumphant
But only if the parents belonged to God.
This lake holds also the small shades of those sent
By unbelieving families, an ephod
Weighing down their killers. Such is their reward.”
At this he stopped, as on the shore we now trod.
Another question came to me. “What award
Do those reap who perform this task for payment?”
The man from Intosh’s family answered
“Each lies on a scalpel blade for his torment,
Writhing over the tool of his trade, the weight
Of his bloody gold tied to his limbs, ‘til rent
In half, his flesh falls on either side, but fate
Decrees that shall happen for eternity.
His body whole once more, freshly cruciate
He’s on the blade.” We leave, circles new to see.