David Schwitzgebel

The Inferno by Dante – Epilogue

“…where we came forth, and once more saw the stars” (Dante, 373).

Upon seeing the gleaming points of light,
      My heart was refreshed, the remnants of the
      Wearying journey left in the inferno’s night.

“Those who are blessed with life,” said my master,
      “May see and appreciate the distant suns
      Which permeate the beautiful night air

Of Earth; however, remember well – you will not
      Be on Earth forever. We all will face judgment,
      After we’ve become weak of body and thought.”

I reflected on this, recalling the jealousy
      Of those living their death in that fetid place, who
      Will never again see the stars, or feel the breeze.

“Come,” called the guide, “before I show you the other
      Two sides of the afterlife, there is one
      More task which must be fulfilled; I assure

You, it will not delay us for much time.”
      Curiously, I followed him, for he
      Had drifted, while we were speaking, to align

Next to a nearby copse of trees. Upon reaching
      Him, I spied a faint figure, seemingly outlined
      In small points of light; when it moved, its gleaming

Build shifted in such a way to give the
      Appearance of moonlight off a body of
      Water. It was mournfully kneeling by an

Imposingly gigantic tree which seemed
      To be grasping at death. Its branches, all blackened,
      expelled an aura of blight, and the trunk displayed

A similar state of sickliness, being
      Riddled with an array of chips and holes – though, most
      Decrepit were the roots on which the spectral thing

Was kneeling. Through them, to my amazement,
      Lava and fire seemed to be bleeding;
      The cracks in the charcoal leaked bits of the hell that

I thought I had forever left behind.
      After a moment of silence, I inquire:
      “What, dear mentor, Is that being that shines?

And the tree: it seems to have planted its
      Roots in The Inferno itself.” “These mysteries,”
      My guide responded, “Are secrets, which sit

On the shoulders of those of us who have
      Been imbued with the knowledge of the domain
      After death – but, as your guide, I will give

You all the wisdom which I have the ability
      or right to bestow. Regarding the tree, you made
      a correct assumption. It comes directly

From the seventh circle of hell. So, yes,
      To confirm the cause of shock in your expression,
      This tree is indeed a soul, though his name is less

Important than the deeds which were committed by
      the wretched thing. After being tormented since his
      youth through the cruelty of his brother, to die

Seemed preferable to him – in contrast to living, and
      extending his bitter existence.” And, with
      an ample amount of pity, a strand

Of the experience in the abyss was
      Remembered by me: violence of any sort
      Concludes in hell. On this bitter thought,

The spectral guide continued. “He was sent
      To the layer reserved for those who
      partake in harm to themselves. As the harpies rent

This boy’s body in the form of a plant,
      His brother, for once, felt an intense guilt.
      He saw his dead sibling, and in turn saw the rat

Which he had become. He dedicated his life
      To remorse, every particle of his body
      Focused on compensating for his brother’s strife –

His compunction was so great, the soul separated
      Itself from the body, and became the
      Stellar being you see before you: Not dead,

And not alive.” In my exceptional pity,
      My heart felt as if would burst
      For the tortured souls standing across from me.

Gravely, my master went on: “This spirit
      Continued, in its spectral state, to do penance.
      Even in hell, the young boy could hear it:

His brother’s sorrow, echoing through the
      World of the dead like a fog horn
      Sounding in a misty night. As eras

Passed, the boy found that he had (for the first
      Time in his existence) a direction. He
      Wished to once again see his brother on Earth.

His will to do this was so great that he grew;
      He forced himself upward until he had
      Overtaken even The Lord of Hell; and then drew

Upon every last ounce of his strength, and
      Reaching up with his roots, pulled himself
      Through the ceiling of The Inferno, the third

Soul to ever return to Earth from Hell.
      Upon breaking through, the stars once
      More shone their light on the child who prevailed.”

However, all that the young boy cared for was
      His brother, a glimmering spirit of remorse,
      Who had waited upon his arrival for millennia.”

After hearing this story, I looked upon
      The boy who resembled a dying tree
      And the brother who resembled a fallen star

Reflected upon the world,
And let Virgil lead me onward.

David Schwitzgebel is a student at Riverside Polytechnic High School, in which he conspicuously spurns the book and poetry clubs because they are terribly dull. He spends his free time writing, reading, and sleeping (during which his subconscious mind considers what next to write/read).