Flannery and Dante
For my money Dante is about as great as you can get.
—Flannery O’Connor, Letter to Elizabeth Hester, November 10, 1955
Tell me, poet, pilgrim, friend
how you managed to make a world.
Your lines a sturdy scaffold we climb
to heaven, gawking at the sinners we find
along your highway out of hell. You own
a genius for evil, as well as good,
but it’s the former that haunts me, a man
who eats his child a thing I could
not forget if I tried, and I don’t.
It’s part of me now, like last night’s corn-
bread I ate for supper. Deep under the skin
you and I are kin,
conjuring words, eager to atone
for the pity of being blood and bone.