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This poem is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

The Gates of Hell & other poems

The Psychic Capital of the World
Ange Mlinko
Cassadega, Florida

Summer. A toad died in a plastic habitat,
sparrow nestlings in the grill fledged,
the Don Juan rose’s ups and downs
were managed with a spritz of sulfur at
intervals, the St Augustine was edged;
and at the crossroads of the town

there was almost nothing to trumpet
the psychic capital of the world, albeit
a unified aesthetic seemed to have bled
from a great purple pen, whose stet
could be read in the sign-up sheet
and hand-crafted amethyst death’s head.

The dead had gone abroad while
vegetation marched on the veranda.
We imagined that they had surpassed,
by six time zones or so, a period style
on a transatlantic see-saw,
so much was our present their past –

settee, drapery, glassed-in bookshelf.
I expected a medium in a shawl
to materialise from behind
a piano – that no doubt played itself –
waving her eye of crystal
(atoms, if not planets, aligned)…

Lovers are perched on the rim of a storm.
In the gale, the Don Juan rose
thrashes a dozen siren blooms.
At the same time the rose-like form
of love’s disturbance bursts windows
along the shore it hugs and dooms.

There is a legal matter to attend to;
an old pact you must put asunder.
It contributes to the rut you’re in.
Is that a seagull or a sprig of mistletoe
you’ve managed to palely loiter under?
By summer you will cross an ocean.

The regional airport gets little traffic –
if you hear a plane, it’s probably yours.
Distance would seem to abolish
the distinction between aircraft
and the bright scumble of the stars,
but a ticket goes much farther than a wish.

In your aura, no doctors or creditors.
Somewhere the sphinx moth is darting,
the clothes fall at your feet loud as snow
– who knows down what acoustic corridors?
And even the sadness of your parting
won’t rise above the decibels of velcro.

The Gates of Hell


He didn’t mean these kinds of gates.
But here we are. Or I mean I.
On these darkest days of the year,
the sun shows how it accommodates
our needs, and turns itself on high.
Show me, sun, what I am doing here.

I’ve been thinking for some time
about ‘Fallen Caryatid’, shouldering
her capital. Actually there were two –
the other bore an urn; they made a rhyme.
So did Fugit Amor, the enduring
nature of attraction to undo.

The traveling show, arrayed in
a gallery in Savannah, was a gift.
Now at the gates of an airport,
another Christmas traveller laden
with all that should uplift,
I’m trying to be a good sport

on my first holiday without my kids.
The garbage trucks resume their rounds
on roads cellophaned with ice
masticating giftwrap like chrysalids
summarily shaken for sounds
or weighed in the hand for the size

of the happiness underneath…
I steer my thoughts back to the show
of misery beyond measurement
between gates which bequeath
images of angel wings working to slow
a fall, not manoeuvre an ascent.

The sun that cufflinks a hill’s white sleeve,
the plane that bootstraps us to the sky,
neither is adequate to the human need
individual to each of us here who leave
someone else behind to cry;
queued, with scarcely a line to read.

He removed The Kiss from the ensemble,
surmising correctly that naked bliss
was out of place at the gates of hell.
If it is bliss that makes us tremble;
if it is not, also, its own abyss
between two gates at a terminal.

Possible Sea Breeze Collision in the Evening Hours

A tango record’s record
of scratches and scuffs
matches the dance floor’s,
where women – walked backward
to 1920s Buenos Aires –
put their foot down. His sole buffs

the wood her little heel makes
half-moons in, so hard and soft
go back and forth in the atelier;
he pushes, and she brakes.
As the music carries them aloft,
all of life seems statelier.

Now, this composer knew a myth
is the simplest amplifier;
stoking his fangirls’ flame,
he hid the woman he was with
out of the line of fire
in a secret hacienda; laid claim

to Uruguay as native land and muse;
avowed that his mother was a widow.
But she was an unmarried fille.
A record of his birth exists in Toulouse.
All of which must go to show
the better stories tend to be iffy,

the three-minute arias ring true –
if three minutes is about how long
we can hold our breath;
and for all the dancing à deux
we hand each other off for a song,
digging in our heels at death.

Cheek by jowl, these subdivisions
live amongst the remnants
of the farms they have replaced.
Tongue in cheek, the signage runs
Rip van Winkle Ranch,
with no real sense of haste.

A grazing bull would stand
in its paddock, undisturbed
by the main road – until
‘Bull for sale: one grand’
meant that he’d been served,
and eventually went spectral.

The day of the full eclipse
milling crescents in the shadows,
we sat on a bench and saw
only each other; then the tips
of a bull’s horns, in twos,
charged everything with awe.

Heaven’s china shop might be
stampeded by those wraiths
as the celestial plates aligned.
It was the last thing some would see;
blame solar retinopathy
for the thing that made us blind.

A ship loaded with cattle, en route
from Uruguay to Syria, sank
that December near Beirut –
each wave trying to outrank
the last before slamming the sea wall
with the vast surge of a cattle call.

At the picture window, I watched.
What did I expect: that cows
would rebound from the surf,
rescuing themselves, patched
from tankers and scows
and give themselves up for beef?

A few miles south, Jove hid
in a bull (what is myth trying to tell us?).
Our labyrinthine lives, hybrid
of economy and transport,
are enough to make me jealous
for when we were gods’ sport…

I could see the neon hotel sector
where convoys were brought to bear
on headland curves; the deck chairs
cleared for milongas; nectar
of night blooms in the hair
advancing international affairs.

This poem is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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