Jack the Ripper

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Dante senses change.
The smoldering rouge of crags
gives way to fog
that mutes all sound–
even the harpies cries–
as if those hags
will not venture
        here.

Dread pervades his soul
for though he’d feared
the thorny, snake-shot paths
the boiling pits and pleas
he’d begun to know this
        place.

But not…
        here.

Rocks give way to midnight streets
clops on damp cobblestones
lamp lights more dim
than the quartered moon.

As Dante hurries through fog
a shout rings out
“Pilgrim!”

He turns toward a darker dark.
“Who?”

“In life I walked
the London streets
to seek my pleasures there.”

Dante recoils:
“Then this must be Whitechapel!”

“Satan’s version.”
The deep voice catches with pain.
“As you can see.”

Dante looks down…
two women butchering him
flashes of surgical steel
like fireflies arcing the slasher’s groin
“My God!…”

Yours! Not mine….”
Another grunt of pain.
“Take these whores away from me!”

“They have reasons!”

“Spare me your airs!
Oh! Stop cutting me, bitch!
The slasher pauses.
“So what if I did slit their throats?
I cleaned the streets with their blood.”
Again his voice gives way to moan.
Then another sound: steel in something
        moist and viscous.
“Pilgrim! Pull them off!
I’ll show you the way to Beatrice!”

Dante turns,
seeks the clutch of fog
away from this maw of alleys
a labyrinth under shadowed spires
until he feels the other path
hears the swish of harpy wings
plying clouds that wink heat lightning
        flashing
                the way
                        to
                                nowhere.

Jack the Ripper is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888.

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