The Gardener of Hell

In the Gardens of Hell every flower is a flame.

Every flower every night swallows its own black face.
Every little growing thing rings with the muscles of men.

Where are all the lungs in Hell?
Where the bulbs would be, beneath the surface, breathing in time.

Red-blue balloons, vein-trails beneath.
Strange jellyfish sail the air.


In Hell, the ground is curved, reminds you there is no escape from this sphere.
Walk around and heave and ho and pant and break away, and you
will return to the same spot.

At the center, black gravity pulls us all in at the same rate,
eternal, uniform, and we never arrive at the center.

The horizon is between us, slightly below.
Light disappears, leaves faint traces.


Wave goodbye with your good hand, the unpunished hand,
with which you wrote down all your ambitions.
You tire of taking out the piece of paper upon which you wrote your name.

Just above, once, Orpheus looked behind him and a woman died again.
Except there is not really a “behind you” down here.

Eurydice shows us how to risk everything and nothing for love.
She gave birth to death and sunk below, a weighted feather, yet a woman.
Eurydice shows us all how to die twice.

Oblivion is hungry.
A woman is a sink.

Orpheus, anxious, walked on to his other lovers, boys
whose boyhoods were the death of other boys,
took their flowers and press them into his book of boys,

while the gods below tuned in, waiting,
garlands and laurels at the ready.

What if death is a turnstile?
Square your hips to the bars.


In the gardens of hell, burn a bouquet every night for those above.

The gardener tends to everything, made of something
papery. Leathery. Resembles cinnamon bark.

When it rains in hell, he is soaked and heavy and dark.
He lies down among his flowers and they shelter him, damp already,

curls up, unfurls, curls up, unfurls. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale.

When it rains in hell, the gardener sleeps.
The gardener dreams and black flowers grow to monstrous proportions,
wide mouths drink and drink.

Seeded, beaded faces long up toward the black sky.

Black waterfall, black fire,
neither hot nor cold.

Time runs into itself,
The sink and the drain and the heavy clouds.

Sun Yung Shin (© 2017)