Eli's Journey down the River Styx
for the twelve mourning pipes, the river known as
Said the bald Apathian rhetorics.
These words turned over and over in Eli's mind
Whilst he drove in search of a brotherhood,
Who'd help resist the Lotus-eaters who stood
As Tyrants over the people he left behind.
drove until he left the cliff-gripping groves
Behind and approached now shadowy sea coves,
Where night crept slowly around the bends from a blackening sea;
And great waters he dreamed he'd never find
Lapped with pearly caps the beach entwined
By the rolling breakers drumming the rocks eternally.
drove quickly into a very lonely cove,
Parked his truck, and to the icy waters he dove.
The songs of bards, champions on horses quickly shod,
Never confessed to these beaches of freezing brine;
Making Eli feel eerie with shivers running up his spine.
Thought the lad, "This sunless cove is very odd!"
no matter," he pondered, "perhaps some shells
I'll find on these clam filled strands." So he fled the swells
And, with wet clammy sand ebbing between his toes,
He stepped down the beach, hardly seeing through the void.
"What's this?" he declared to a clam below, "the beach is destroyed.
I see rocks, hundreds just arose!"
stumbled over the rocks, then stumps of trees
Thrust from the oily deep like gaunt refugees
Of war standing in line waiting for death.
He walked more. A silver glow struck his eye,
He stooped down and, behold a conch shell did lie
At his feet. He took it with trembling breath.
held the conch shell high so to see
Its polished form, but, alas, too dark he
Couldn't see the bony pink insides, a gift from the deep.
He held it to his mouth and blew an awful sound.
The whitened trump too made his flesh creep.
he saw more conch shells below a cliff
And gathered as many as he could lift.
He took a blanket from his pick-up truck
And fashioned a cradle of woody-dry sand
Gathered further up the beach of that sun-stripped land.
He slept. Dawn's dainty fingers stroked him and on to life he struck.
from emerald waters burned through his dream
And brought Eli from death to its extreme.
Eli rubbed his eyes, wiping sand tears,
And then he stretched his aching young frame
Happy at his awakening again.
He gazed to sea, seeing what looked like piers.
had been the stumps of trees the night past
Were not but stakes and posts – and a sunken mast –
From a fort night's battle which pitched the dead
And rotting remains of the warriors in their bliss,
Stretched over a barbed wire and concrete abyss,
Bunkers, rocks, bleaching bones, the heroes' death's bed.
Cradled in the sand nearby
Were not pink conch shells gathered by Eli
But the skulls of warriors and broken laws
With gaping sockets staring from the past!
"Aghh!" cried Eli, wiping his mouth, aghast:
He'd blown a tune through those empty jaws!
looked at the cliffs, whitened as chalk,
And saw a stream flow from above a rock,
Where bones cascaded over its crest.
From the foaming torrent, plunging in sheets
Of milky dew from Mother Nature's teats,
Showered skulls of multitudes, all gaping in jest.
climbed up to the source of the stream
Which recalled a vision in his last night's dream:
This was the mouth of the river called Styx,
For near its entrance were twelve long stalactites,
Hanging on the wall like an organ's pipes,
Arrayed in the cave's dripping pearly niche.
wind came from the depths across the stone
Pipes, strumming them to make a Jews Harp tone,
Like low pitched hummings of primitive flutes
Calling the Kiwi to their native dance.
The chamber caught him in his awed advance
And pulled him further towards its deep inner roots.
plunged into the dripping cavern,
Hearing increasing dripping around each turn;
He took a torch from the nearby wall,
Set it afire so to see the path and way,
And stepped into the dark to find a clay
Pitcher where dripping water came to fall.
above his eyes stood a giant, sweating guard
On a ledge which was very heavily scarred.
Behind him was a heavy iron door
Which emitted blasts of steam and heat
So powerful that the ground there burned Eli's feet
And made him perspire, soaking from every pour.
guard sweated also, so much at his duty,
That briny moisture dripped from his body
To the pitcher on the ground, its stench in tow.
And behold! From the pitcher flowed the stream:
The great Styx poured from the pitcher's broken seam
In such volume it must overflow.
the river Styx flowed from the cracked jar
Down two tiny opposing channels, quite bizarre,
With one branch flowing behind the guard's door
And the other between Eli's legs and on to the sea.
Eli asked the Guard about this mystery
Who replied, "So it will flow forevermore!"
are you guarding, Oh gatekeeper?" asked Eli.
The guard flexed his oiled muscles, all rippling thereby,
Over his naked form like unto a rock's
Own ripples when thrown into a calm creek.
"I am the first gatekeeper over the meek
And strong, the living and the dead, all the flock!
am the First Gatekeeper of Anki;
I am the keeper of the Eternal Sea;
I am the guard of Mother Nature's joint;
I am the guard of guards, between heaven and earth;
I guard the dying and the yet in birth.
Thy Father's stream I am charged to anoint."
guard thereupon kneeled with a huge gourd
And drank from the Styx whose torrent now roared,
Since the guard began perspiring once again.
"Oh Great Gatekeeper, I seek brotherhood
Which lies down this torrent called the Styx. Would you be good
And let me through the door so that I may go in?"
know," answered the guard, "The passage's risk,
That one passage leads to Kur's basilisk?"
Eli shook his head, "Sir, of this I know not,"
And the Gatekeeper with more candor replied,
"In heaven and earth's juncture you abide;
You are in heaven, in earth, and hell's knot.
this door is life for faultless men
Or, (he smiled) death in the Basilisk's den!"
Eli was still puzzled. "But sir," he said,
"What is the Basilisk?" The guard was shocked
Over this naive lad who'd unknowingly walked
Into life's womb and death's bed.
guard had received only souls before
Who are come from mortality to his door
To await their judgment and reckoning.
Now he had no way of knowing Eli
Was a mere mortal who yet had to fly
Mortal bonds in God's final beckoning.
fine is the margin between death and life
That the guardian of the heavenly rife
Had failed to see that it was not Eli's soul
Before his feet but a mortal being!
So he replied, "The Styx leads to life's spring
Where the Tree of Life shall nourish your soul.
if you should follow its lower fork
You will find the Basilisk's fiery fork
Strike upon your damned soul, if so it be!"
The guard slowly opened the steaming iron door,
As its weight made him strain against the floor.
"Go!" he roared, "To Death or Eternity!"
he opened the door, skulls floated out
Into the stream's reception hall to spout
Beyond the guard's bare feet toward the sea.
Eli was truly scared. "Fear not," said the kindly guard,
"It is only the dead who have been barred
From the fire and sowed to redie in yonder quay.
see, they are to be the Living Dead
Who must now relive all they have done and said!"
Cried the giant midst the infernal stream's roar.
"Your soul seems pure," he added, "and I doubt you'll be caught
In the inferno and will find the way which Christ bought."
Eli stepped in behind the clanging, closing door.
upon iron, hammer and anvil echoing over and over,
Rang behind Eli, as he peered into a steaming moor,
Where the river Styx wound through its choking mist.
It was so hot there Eli shed his clothes and stepped
Nudely into the Nether world's great depths.
Then a boat loomed near which he almost missed.
approached the dock and boarded to sail
In a tiny skiff which now pierced far off heaven's veil.
The skiff drifted until the mist grew thin
And, shivering from a cooling new breeze,
Eli donned a piece of sailcloth near his knees.
At that moment he reached another gate captioned, "Sin."
other boats waited before the gate
And the gatekeeper there cried, "Halt! You must wait
Until the word is given to proceed!"
Eli came about and waited as he was told;
The gate opened, a boatman set sail and poled.
As the door closed screams echoed from his deed.
other boat was let sail through the gate
While its boatman prayed for an easier fate.
The door again closed to screams of terror.
Eli waited. Then the guard motioned, "next,"
And Eli's boat slipped through the abyss of the hexed
Where truths long passed hovered to challenge each mariner.
river parted at the chamber's end,
Where two more gates loomed at the river's oxbow bend.
Eli had seen the horrors once before,
Well described and lived through Aeneas' book,
And, accordingly, he was not afraid to look
Upon the hellish torments and burning gore.
he held the helm stoutly and ignored the sight
Which swirled from the man-eating water's the faint in freight,
And fixed his young eyes upon the right gate.
The preceding boat fared not quite as well,
For the boatman's guilt sent him into hell
As he was blinded by all the horrors of his own hate.
where the boiling waters became two
Streams at the river's bend, the first boat flew
Forward, into the lower channel's gate of fire,
And in screaming pain the boatman was thrown
Into the hole below the mountain's cone,
Where Aeneas tended hell's ceaseless pyre.
his arm from the lower door's heat,
Eli bent his skiff to the right in retreat
And drifted into the reed-filled waters
Of a crystal clear lake and a meadow's rills,
What appeared to be the journey's end, and Eli released the till
And stepped into that field's flowery care.
grass and flowers were knee deep, a very delight,
With nature's colors, all against a Prussian blue sky.
Then, appearing like some porcelain white faced dolls
Stood some people at an emerald lodge.
Yes! The mansion was made from emeralds corded like logs;
The gems were nearly as long as you are tall!
a highland thatched hunting lodge, though crystal
Stood this island mansion midst its heavenly desmense.
Gazing upon its roofing of bronze-red tiling,
This strange chateau and of fiefdom feel
Left Eli in a mood so genteel
He floated over the moor, arms outstretched and quite beguiling.
approached the mansion to stand in line
Waiting to enter that lodge so divine.
All were silent, standing in awe to hear
Murmurings and pleas from the deeper emerald corridors.
The line shriveled, Eli stepped through the doors,
Behold! He faced the First Examiner!
Examiner scanned through a fiery book
And waved Eli by with nary a look
Or sound. Eli stepped by to the courtyard
And took a stone seat near a weeping lass.
Deigning to know where he was, Eli asked,
"Lass, where are we and why are you crying so hard?"
didn't speak, only wiping her tears the more.
"I seek the Stereotypes, maybe they're of your corps?"
He whispered, but, alas, she still spoke not.
With no answer forthcoming, he turned away
And scanned the green marbled courtyard silently.
The lass spoke, "Beyond that gate is the lot."
bade his thanks and approached the gate
Which was made out of Mother of Pearl and jade.
Beyond was a yacht preparing to sail
And people were boarding her in great glee.
He returned to the lass, feeling the jubilee,
"Be happy lass," said he, "It should be a divine sail."
lass shook her beautiful blue-black locks,
"No, you are wrong, I shall tread not those docks,
For the yacht sails with only the good,
The Stereotypes whom you said you seek.
It is not my ship; mine lies waiting; I'm weak
And cannot join your ship of Brotherhood."
why?" queried the alarmed Eli, "for you are lovely
You appear so gentle, the height of beauty."
But she sighed, "My past revealed, claimed the Book,
Commissioned me to Salvation's Halfway House;
I shall sail tomorrow, after I douse
My sins in the sorrows I forsook!"
lass," cried Eli, "Your agony I would share
If I could. You are so helpless and yet so fair,
Your suffering I could not bare. He held
Her satin damask-shrouded hands and saw in her wet eyes
The picture of his lost love, that her cries
Echoed from his heart where his future dwelled.
know you," he answered. "You are Anna, my queen
You are the queen of my new innocence!
I see the mirror in your pond-like eyes
As my bride to be! Anna we are one!"
The lass despaired, "The weaver of fate is not yet done!
I am not yet your prize!"
are you saying?" asked Eli, "Are we not one
Now? Are we not merged hand in hand? It is done!"
Two hands gripped each other, an attendant came to them
Saying, "Come Eli, it is time to go."
Eli cried, "But I can't leave this chateau
Without Anna!" He pleaded, "No, no, she's not condemned!"
squeezed Anna's hand one more time, bade her
And sadly rose from the bench to comply
With the command to join his brotherhood.
He went through the gate to the sleek, fleet yacht,
And boarding the ship thereupon sought
To get help from the Stereotype of leadership good.
the ship sailed away as if in a dream;
Angelic souls strolled the decks from beam to beam.
Eli questioned one man who bore a scar
Across his chest and beneath his white robe,
"Where are we going?" The man smiled, pulled his earlobe,
And replied, "To heaven, bliss; just over there, not far."
you a true Stereotype?" asked Eli.
"No," replied the kind soul with a deep sigh,
"It is not I. Over there are those you seek."
Eli approached the other side and spoke of his hopes,
Telling them of the Lotus-eaters, the dopes,
The plague, hatred, the noxious reek.
Stereotypes said nothing until Eli
Finished. Then they smiled, saying, "Oh, Eli,
It is sad, sad indeed; oh, my, alas, alas;
We are mere paragons of virtue lad!
We can do nothing for you; believe us, we are so sad
We can't help you rid your land of the hateful morass!"
was shocked: "But why? I was told you could,
That you, above all, practiced brotherhood!"
The kind men smiled all together, "Aye, it is true;
But we are mere symbols now, an ethereal light;
We're not mortal, we can't help you in your fight!
If we could we would for we love you."
must go back home to your mortal realm;
You can do no good here because of our ship's helm.
Hurry, jump, make haste before the gate comes,
Or you will be caught in the Heavenly Gauss!"
Cried an old man, and Eli jumped across
The deck and over the side, to the roll of Heavenly Drums.
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10.25.97; updated 11.1.97; 5.27.2000; 3.17.05;
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Copyright © 1997-2014 Mel Copeland. All rights reserved.