It seems in Hell our limbs begin the process of devastation.
I don’t know if I’m looking at an arm or a dead tree.
I don’t know if the tail of the Devil is the curled end of a carrot
or a rich man’s head before it dives. In this place
the ground is not soil nor dirt but the skull of a bird
pecked by the beach. It reminds me of the scene in ‘The Lighthouse’
where the seagulls swoop & Robert Pattinson’s eyes take on
the haunted look of symmetry. His eyes will never find rest,
Waldemar Januszczak said, looking at a Bruegel.
The people stream into Hell’s mouth & every limb is a hole
to poke & prod at, to shove a fish or bury a secret into.
To live a spiritual life, my father once said, is not unlike
the cleaning of a bedroom. To rearrange & reorder but not
entirely exorcise, despite my itch or need to.
In his treatise, Galileo concluded the Inferno’s roof
had to be 600 kilometres thick. Anything less
& Hell would collapse. What would it take to drill a hole
the size of a coin, a quiet hole that grows?
Upon touching Christ’s wound, Thomas says, My Lord
& my God! In Caravaggio, you can still see that phrase
trapped underneath Christ’s skin, but no one looks at it.
All crane their necks as if to listen for a heartbeat.
On uneven days, the touch of divinity feels just beyond
those gates. But I know better. My vision is myopic
& everything holy is both far away & near.
When the Prodigal Son returns, home is a ditch in
the middle of nowhere before it is right there beside you.
For Mazzotta, to write the structure of your life
you need to die. The Prodigal Son dies in the pigsty.
T. S. Eliot’s second-favourite poem is an office seating
He dies again & again until he is able to stagger home
drunk on some crucified revelation. Only then, he
sees his life laid out like roadkill & in the distance,
his father slaughtering a fatted calf. Here lies symmetry
& the word balances on this. To be Bataille & enter a grave
to pronounce upon touching that hole: My Lord & my God!
In grief, to say, Love begins with a cut.
Love is the seam between disbelief & bone
love makes Tony Leung speak beatitudes
when he hangs his clothes to dry.
Tony does not realise that Eros is close, not yet.
He will stumble upon it, like a discarded slipper
& then he will never forget. Oh Beatrice, oh Blessed one!
Love is Faye Wong singing & not singing ‘California Dreamin’
a phrase, a room I enter: do this in remembrance of me.
In her old age, when Iris Murdoch lived with Alzeheimers
her husband wrote, ‘a couple can move closer & closer apart.’
Of this, I imagine two bodies not touching, the distance between
Jesus’ face & his disciples’ feet. On Maundy Thursday, I told you
I pressed my lips to divinity, but it was you who told me
a vision can be remembered, accidental, creased.
Some believe depicting God’s face or the sound of his voice
is to commit an act of violence. To recount the unknowable then,
say God & I talking, I must crane my neck to a secret sign—
I have seen the paintings of Empyrean hovering—& how lonely
it must be to watch a giant eye & hope it blinks for you. The
closest I get to it is this: the word is splinter, the object is
a grain of rice. One day, I’ll open the blinds to let the light in
& before God hesitates I’ll pray, Lord, please, triangulate this light.
Wen-Juenn Lee is a poet and editor living on unceded Wurundjeri land. In her writing, she is interested in gaps, leaks and spillage. She is a Hot Desk Fellow for 2022, and her writing has been published in Meanjin, Cordite’s Tell Me Like You Mean It, Going Down Swinging, among others.