Dante’s Outer Circles

by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block
Second Place, October 2019
Judged by Laurie Byro


It was the tinkling of cups
which disturbed you: sugar
and blackness, a spoon
for the madness.

Sometimes love looks like
getting your partner’s coffee right.
I sucked at so many other things.

That September I wanted
to bring in the Devil’s Ivy,
make cuttings for new rooting.

You had painstakingly trained
each vine to climb your rocker
and we joked about you overcome

by its bright green death-grip.
You told me it would die
if we put it on your night table,

and I didn’t pick up on it when
your gaze held mine more than
a casual moment too long.

The surviving flog themselves.
There is a curse that allows
the memory to disgorge

every thoughtless act, each
unkind word ever visited upon
the dignity of the departed.


I appreciate Dante's Outer Circles because of the "spoon for the madness" that brings TS Eliot to mind, the clever "Devil's Ivy" referencing back to hell, the "death grip" of the vines. The word “surviving” is the denouement, no further explanation is needed. The rocking chair, I am told, is a worry chair. You move in it, but you don't get anywhere. --Laurie Byro

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