Dismal Swamp

Eternal twilight swathes the bogs and fens
where ageless Charon ferries hapless souls
from out of darkness . . . into darkness filled
with dread foreboding fear of what’s ahead.

With boatman’s skills he’s honed through endless time,
he sculls his skiff through Acheron’s deep grief,
past Cocytus with flowing tears, and Styx,
that loathsome swamp whence none have yet returned.

He poles his coffin-shaped, flat-bottomed boat
through pools of bloody feces,  yellow pus,
disgusting sloughs with bleeding, leprous, buoys
in phallic shapes that bob above the mire.

The buoys, by spraying semen on his face,
will lead blind Charon to his dismal goal;
again, first stiff, then limp, they spit their warm
and viscid guideposts on the dark cortege.

He stokes the liquid flames of Phlegethon
with bloated corpses rotting in his skiff,
but saves their severed souls for meaner fates –
and now, the river of forgetfulness.

The spray from Lethe’s passage clears the brains
of ferried souls, removing any joy
which might alleviate their coming pain
through fond remembrance of their mortal past.

The denizens of hell come out to greet
the ferry man who brings them fresh new meat.
“Charivari! Sing Out!  Approaching souls!
Pass through once more, old man; the fires grow dim.”

Written circa 1962, revised 1998 by David L Brungart - © Copyright