Dante treads a rumpled plane,
steaming fissures breathing rot
as sweat salts his tongue.
He’s stopped by a growl and hiss,
turns to gawk at the head of a man
on an animal’s body,
claws and serpentine tail
trapped by the weight of a wolf,
so black as to blend
with a cave’s maw,
save for white fangs,
bared crescent on an onyx page.
“Are you Geryon?”
The creature struggles to free itself.
“No. You will find that monster elsewhere in this realm.”
“Then….who are you?”
“I am Mammon. Please move this beast.”
“Mammon?… False god of riches and avarice?”
“False? I was true enough in Florence
where you admired the merchant guilds,
the bankers and traders in luxury!
Was I false in your quest of the florin!
You lusted for wealth as much as for Beatrice!”
Dante flinches at the sound of her name.
“At least I worship love and not a graven image!
You! Who poisons through greed!
Who ruins beggar and king!
The very right hand of Lucifer!”
Mammon’s face contorts
beneath the weight of the wolf,
The Pilgrim shivers despite the heat.
Mammon points a claw.
“And you are the deputy of delusion!
Chasing the dream of attachment!
You will never find her here.
Beatrice exists in your mind!
You enshrine her as deity of love!
I caressed my silver and gold
my diamonds refract true light.
You’ve constructed a theater,
playing to an audience of one,
the cast confined to your skull!”
Even if my love be dream
and consummation confines to my mind,
that gift’s more real than all your gold,
and I am bound by soul to seek her!”
Free at last from the scent of wolf,
Dante escapes the rocky prison,
turns and marches toward a horizon
where hills meld with pale red sky,
shot through with veins of lightning.
During the European Middle Ages, Mammon was commonly personified as the demon of wealth and greed.