The Emperor of the Universe of pain
jutted his upper chest above the ice…
—Dante Alighieri, The Inferno
Who fashioned him with burning hands of ice?
Who chiselled him out of the roofs of hell?
And for what purpose and what price
in the blind black eye of what winter gale?
Who lodged this parsnip deep into his brain?
Who placed this foolish crown upon his head?
And to whose profit and whose gain
in the wake of what wonder and what dread?
Who made him lord of his forsaken stare?
Who left him in this world of raspy cries?
And unto whose will and whose care
in the long shadow of such sad, cold skies?
first appeared in Artword Quarterly , 1998