[Frank Lima in The Gettysburg Review 10(1): 51, 1997]
Dante and Beatrice are 57 Today
after David Shapiro
"Dante and Beatrice are 57 today."
They live in Paradise with the fallen
Angels, the demons who absconded
With biblical crimes from the Inferno
On the outskirts of Virgil's flesh.
Beatrice always wears black and white
Gowns of tenderness. Dante is
Terrifying, old and crumbles as he
Watches Beatrice twirl and trample
The clouds on their way to Heaven.
This is Paradise. Where every
Instant Dante writes an erotic
terza rima for the assembly of God.
God created the cymbal to keep Dante
Awake. Beatrice sleeps on her
Stomach exhaling spring butterflies
From her white rolling shoulders,
As she breathes deeply the warm
Pursuing air. She weeps on stones and
They grow wings. She loves her crazy
Uncle: A nimble carpenter who uses
Tide boxes to construct large
Cathedrals. This is paradise.
Everyone is old here and plays
Violin. Is David Shapiro related to
Dante? Beatrice seems to think so
Since her ancestors were Roman bee
Keepers. She, like rice, goes to the
Mountains to eat snow and white
Truffles for the care of her ermine
Skin. Dante watches her and his
Leg catches fire. He is inspired
To write a long poem about Paradise
And Hell. About Ohm's Law. About
Thermal energy. He names the poem,
"Straight Out Of You."
The Pope objects to the title, saying,
"This sounds too comedia vulgari.
Not divino at all." Beatrice is the
Last oncogene in Dante's life to
Trace her naked body in the sand,
Like stars swelling through pain.
She falls into his receding arms,
As light as a child's kiss. He asks,
"O bitter steel conscience,
"Is this the basement of hell?
"Am I the starless elevator to hell?
"Am I the scarless stairs to heaven?
"Am I your breed to live on breasts?"
But God is too busy preparing wars
For the living and wars for the dead:
"Humans are high octane: Some have
To be saved, some have to burn in hell."
The red lips of Beatrice,
Leak out of Dante, like an old fountain
Pen wobbling across someone's last will
And testament into the night.