Return to The Dante Dreams Project

Dante treads ice crags
so cold they soak his marrow.
Then a movement through the mist,
like a windmill turns its sails.

This end will have no end, he knows,
unless he solves the bind,
one word to unlock Hell.

He shivers beneath
three faces of Satan,
the left one chewing Brutus,
the right face dangling
Cassius like a tongue,
the center face–
a great red cave of mouth–
reveals Judas Iscariot,
legs kicking as if to swim
        down the gullet.

Satan’s bat-like wings,
vast collar to the ghastly head,
constantly churn three winds.
His stare, an indifferent
as if to say, “You will never leave.”

Dante chokes back his fear
and goes eye-to-eye with evil.
“I will write one word and see the sky.”

He times the stretch of wings,
moves past the Fallen One,
then climbs into a cave.

A small stream gurgles
from the hollow of a rock,
denying final exit.
He drops to hands and knees,
grabs a nearby stick.
“A one-word key,” the voice had said,
“unspoken throughout your dreams
or written on these lines….”

He searches tomes of his mind
then writes a single word


yet the stone stays still.
He strives to recall something


He scribbles


begs the stone to shift
yet nothing moves
        save drool
                from stagnant rock.

Dante falls to his back,
feels the cold soil of despair,
relives each tortured diatribe
the sinners’ wails, his cold retorts
the demurs of his journal entries.
What word was always missing?
He prays as he’s never prayed.

He feels an answer
as if revelation from
        Beatrice herself.

He seizes the stick and kneels,
scratches four letters from his soul:


then falls to his back
and shuts his eyes
hears the stream’s
different sigh
feels the wet
of a stronger flow,
fresh air across his hair
and shoulders, then turns
to see the rock has split!

He scrambles to his feet,
crawls through the rent,
and sees once more the stars.

Satan is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions who brings evil and temptation and is known as the deceiver that leads humanity astray. Some religious groups teach that he originated as an angel who fell out of favor with God, seducing humanity into the ways of sin, and who now rules over the fallen world.



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