poem index

the gate

Tadeusz Różewicz
Lasciate ogni speranza
Voi ch'entrate

abandon all hope
ye who enter here

the inscription at the entrance to the inferno
of Dante's Divine Comedy

courage!  

behind that gate 
there is no hell

hell has been dismantled
by theologians
and deep psychologists

converted into allegory
for humanitarian and educational
reasons

courage!
behind that gate
the same thing begins again

two drunken grave-diggers
sit at the edge of a hole

they're drinking non-alcoholic beer
and munching on sausage
winking at us
under the cross 
they play soccer
with Adam's skull

the hole awaits
tomorrow's corpse
the "stiff" is on its way

courage!

here we will await 
the final judgment

water gathers in the hole
cigarette butts are floating in it

courage!

behind that gate
there will neither be history
nor goodness nor poetry

and what will there be
dear stranger?

there will be stones

stone 
upon stone
stone upon stone
and on that stone 
one more
stone

From Sobbing Superpower by Tadeusz Różewicz. Copyright © 2010 by Tadeusz Różewicz and Joanna Trzeciak. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company.

Tadeusz Różewicz