Years ago at Christmas I bought Dante’s massive epic poem and read through it. This emerged with a few modifications of mine:
Phalaris, a tryant, gazed at a Sicilian cloud—
red at sunset—and saw a head with crimson horns.
He charged Perillus of Athens to craft a hallow brass bull
to execute undesirables. Perillus forged and hammered the bull
with its mouth braying open and fastened a hinged door on the side.
He paraded the brazen bull to Phalaris’ throne and bowed for his commission.
Phalaris smirked, ordered him seized, thrust into the bull
and bolted the door. A fire was lit below its brass belly
and its inventor was roasted alive, his shrieks bellowing
like a bull from the cavity. Fists pounded inside the drum.
Phalaris was pleased. Many more were broiled.
Phalaris was over thrown. He was shoved inside the bull
And saw the door slammed and heard it bolted.
Light beamed through its mouth. The curved bottom glowed red.
The bull began bellowing.
Inferno canto XXVII, 8-9.
The narrow gate was swathed with thorny vines
arching overhead, and its sides tangled with briars
as thistles bloomed by its posts beckoning my toes.
It was bolted. On either side roads with fruit stands
vanished into the horizon. My guide pointed
and I nodded so he unbolted the gate.
I wrenched it open and squeezed through
but a large thorn pierced into my heart
deeper than a splinter, though the wound healed.
My guide asked “do you want me to follow or lead?”
Purgatorio canto IV, 22.
I followed. On either side the parallel roads—
their fruit stands succulent with tangerines, strawberries, grapes,
melons, pears, blueberries—narrowed and faded into haze.
My guide lifted his hands to the gray skies
dissolving into a vortex of luminous shapes
with Edelweiss wings—whose flutterings
breezed my cheeks—and gyrated towards
a circular rainbow with a purple flame at its center.
Lowering his hands the gray skies returned.
He turned and poked my embedded thorn,
which ached like Yeshua’s heart.
He pointed to his bare chest and smiled. I felt his kiss.
“Do you want me to pull your thorn or push deeper?”
Paradiso cantos XXXII. 130, XXXIII 100-126.