Hell is easier to picture than heaven,
I’ve always found, and the old Masters,
especially that devout sorcerer Bosch
and that gin-soaked sad sack Munch
seem to agree. Munch, sly fox,
actually places himself in the midst
of the inferno, Self-Portrait in Hell.
Van Eyck’s Last Judgment, the damned
in a skeletal embrace while God and
his retinue of tiny seated saints look on,
turns the breath in your lungs to dry ice.
But my favourite is Brueghel’s Mad Meg,
that big ole girl, dead-faced, hefting
her long saber and an armful of kitchen
goods as she stomps through the underworld
with her throng of little women pillaging
and torturing, as if the forever-damned
don’t have enough problems.
So hell is a crowded subway set afire.
Heaven is, well, what? You get to see your
mom and dad if you were good (and
they were), but where? Some well-
kept city where the street-cleaners
come every day and everything
is recyclable. Or aromatic flowering
gardens where rivers flow and virgins
abound? Or a pinkish sky with Fragonard’s
fat baby angels, or God the Father
shooting shafts of light from his
fingers? I mean it’s hard to see,
you know? And hard to even want
to be there, though it is better, as
my poor, long-gone ma used to say,
than the alternative.
Alec Solomita’s fiction has appeared in the Southwest Review, The Mississippi Review, Southword Journal, and Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal, and named a finalist by the Noctua Review. His poetry has appeared in Algebra of Owls, The Lake, The Galway Review, Panoplyzine, The Blue Nib, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Do Not Forsake Me, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. He lives in Massachusetts.
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