no ancient to point the way

Thanks to colleagues for some time spent contemplating this poem by Billy Collins.

Scenes of Hell

We did not have the benefit of a guide,
no crone to lead us off the common path,
no ancient to point the way with a staff,

but there were badlands to cross,
rivers of fire and blackened peaks,
and eventually we could look down and see

the jeweler running around a gold ring,
the boss captured in an hourglass,
the baker buried up to his eyes in flour,

the banker plummeting on a coin,
the teacher disappering into a blackboard,
and the grocer silent under a pyramid of vegetables.

We saw the pilot nose-diving
and the whore impaled on a bedpost,
the pharmacist wandering in a stupor

and the child with toy wheels for legs.
You pointed to the soldier
who was dancing with his empty uniform

and I remarked on the blind tourist.
But what truly caught our attention
was the scene in the long mirror of ice:

you lighting the wick on your head
me blowing on the final spark,
and our children trying to crawl away from their
eggshells.

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