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Christ’s Descent Into Hell


ISSUE:  Autumn 1982

When it was too much, he went out
of the body’s unspeakable suffering. Rose. Stepped away.
Thus abandoned, the darkness grew afraid
and hurled its bats
at the pale thing—the twilight still reeling
with their dread of colliding
against its frozen torment. Dark, restless
air grew discouraged over the corpse; and the strong
and watchful animals of night felt all at once hollow,
reluctant to move.

Maybe his just released ghost chose to hesitate there,
near him, in the world. Because the event of his
anguish was still enough.
Nocturnal life struck him as gentle,
and like some room that’s set aside for mourning
he reached out to encompass it. . . .
But the earth, parched from the thirst of his wounds,
ripped open below him unleashing its shrieks.
He, authority on horror, heard all hell
scream out and demand to know
if it was over yet: apparently they thought they saw
in the fulfillment of his (endless) pain
the end of their own. And he plunged in,
his spirit did, with the full weight
of the body’s exhaustion: moving urgently
through the startled eyes of the driven transparent,
he hurriedly lifted his eyes to meet Adam’s,
hurried down, faded, appeared, and vanished in his fall
to more appalling depths. Suddenly (higher, higher)
suspended right over the middle of the boiling screams,
he stepped forth from the tall
tower of his perseverance: without breathing,
stood there, without a railing, landlord of agony. Silent.

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