Limbo Rock

          "Jack be limbo, Jack be quick
           Jack go unda limbo stick..."
                              ~ "Limbo Rock"



    In grade school the nuns
taught us to say an extra prayer
    at night before we went to bed,

for souls in purgatory— which
    they explained was something like
a waiting hall or holding pen

    filled with those who couldn't 
get a clear pass either to heaven  
    or hell. Dante imagines them  

instead in gradated circles— 
    the uncommitted, undecided; the goody-
one- instead of two-shoes; the bland 

    as soybean cakes, forever  
neutral fence-sitters. Hoarders, wasters, 
    the wrathful and overly indulgent; 

or those simply unwilling to affix  
    a signature on the form of their final 
sentencing. Though I'm not quite ready to die, 

    do I already have one foot in that vestibule 
even as the other drags in this world still 
    proliferating with desire, where anything 

from limes to salted duck eggs can be 
    sent by courier from the tropics 
to the barren north in winter? Look 

    at what money can buy, said my late 
father a week before he passed away, 
    amused by people parading by in fancy 

dress. And then the city collapsed 
    into rubble around us. I hope by now 
he's moved from waiting room to one 
 
    of the grand ballrooms with a 24-hour 
buffet and all the karaoke, a shiny parquet 
    floor where his friends are showing off 

their dancing skills. When Dante passes from 
    one circle to the next, overcome by the sight
of so many souls in torment, he writes only 

    that he fainted; in the underworld
of the dead it's as if he too had met his death: 
    And then I fell, even as a dead body falls.

 

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