Dante descends from hills
and roams a forest so dark
of bark and bough
that he must feel his way.
He spits the brackish taste of fear
now rues the missing hated flares
that guided him through the maze.
These firs stand as sentinels
with spears of probing limbs
and mace of prickly cones.
The trees give way to a wall of growth
human form shot through with vine.
A face speaks:
“Pilgrim, my name is Jim Jones.
Do you know of the town
where I gathered my flock?”
“Your flock! Jonestown?
The Temple cult in Guyana?”
“Cult! How dare you smear me such!”
Jones’ eyes flame.
“Nine hundred believers at home!”
“Nine hundred believers slain!
Poisoned by grape-flavored drink!
Children dying in mothers’ arms!
or shot by thugs and guards!”
“South America welcomed our settlement!”
“And where are your followers!
Cast out by your precious Florence
to wander the country and wallow in verse!
Living your dreams in your head.
I brought mine to life!”
Dante stares at the tortured visage
hectored by harpies, crowned by vipers
epitome of vanity trapped for eternity.
“And killed your people.”
“Pilgrim, you’re a One Trick Pony!”
Dante absorbs the slur
Inferno’s tally growing
Jim Jones was an American religious leader and community organizer and the founder of The People’s Temple. He was responsible for the mass suicide in November 1973 of 909 people in Jonestown, Guyana, and the murder of five individuals at a nearby airstrip, including Congressman Leo Ryan. More than 300 children were murdered at Jonestown, almost all by cyanide poisoning. Jones died from multiple gunshot wounds. It is suspected that his death was a suicide.