seven gates of hell

we took our eyes out & burried them at the entrance.
rust on our fingers. rust on the sun. we came
at dusk looking for a threshold. birds turned
& flew back into them dusks. the soft animals,
the squirrels & the rabbits all put on 
their carnival faces as they followed us.
feeling in the dirt for stones to fill 
our pockets. the legend says a doctor once tried
to build a way into the belly of the world.
worked late into the night. shovel. grit. 
record player howling. the process swallowed him
& in his place, the first gate. then another
then another. an elongating spine. what are we then?
shreds of yarn? skeleton holders. knees 
in the brush. the sound of wind turning into
children. they run & run & then are gone. 
a broom against cement. doors that open & shut.
in the mud, our eyes rest like wintered toads.
a body is a thing that always escapes. go on
& on. we went until the sixth gate before 
everything echoed. limbs fell from the sky.
bones in our mouths spat on the ground.
hell sang like a broken bell. come come come
it said. you took my hand & tried to speak.
your tongue, a salamander. nothing left to do
but push forward but the last gate trembled.
a forest creature said with a voice 
like frozen turtles, "last chance"
& it was enough to yank me free. i took your
& we turned around. reget nesting 
in my stomach. when we came to our eyes 
they were shivering. blinked & saw
nothing but darkness. the forest. 
no street lights. felt our way for the car.
headlights ripped holes in the night.
we tore away quickly. the animals watched
still in their masks. i said, "do not look back"
as you drove & drove & drove. 

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