Dante In China

By John Barr / from Dante in China 

Exiled for life, he conceives the Inferno.

Had his wanderings brought him here–Take Bus 9
for the Red Seabeach– he might have been stunned
to find Nature so unequivocal.

An endless flat grows nothing normal,
while a weed–arterial red–unrolls
a welcome mat to the unwell.

He sees the tidal river crawl
through deep reversals,
looking for the sea.

He walks the Bridge of Nine Turnings.
Posted up ahead, warnings–
in language he cannot divine.

Strutting cranes patrol
the muck, stab for clams–their
shells like voided efforts at immortality.

Flaring well-gas night and day,
towers rise as if to say,
"Pollution can be beautiful."

He cranes to see what all this will become,
beyond the reach of naked eye,
beyond what earth's receding curve allows.

Sooner or later the bay
will merge with ocean swells,
the only way he can imagine getting home.

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