On September 14th, Dante’s Death Day

gone 700 years today
            leaving us here, in the
                      middle kingdom

which was Paradise once
                      but which we soiled

          and are about to
turn into hell, or
                      at least an Inferno

for homo sap sap, the
          disappearing species
                        — if it comes to that —

there’s life
          left, there will be
life left

        and right
it will move
                     on, even without us

it will rejoice in us
     gone — I can hear the
           birds celebrating

                       the trees too
                                 the air cooling
                                           the sea cooling

                       it will be the real paradise
           the one sans-sapiens,
that arrogant inter-



Copyright © 2022 by Pierre Joris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 27 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The title gives both the time and the occasion of this poem: the seven hundredth anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death—an occasion which allowed or prompted me to reread some cantos of his Divine Comedy, and to rethink its cosmological, three-partite Christian Weltanschauung. Seven hundred years later, in a post-theologically organized universe, Purgatory appears as the most ‘down-to-earth’ (pun intended) possibility. The poem goes with that, and with the most obvious ‘global’ problem: the ecological disaster the human species has fabricated by its thoughtless and greedy exploitation of what was our original paradisethis planet.”
—Pierre Joris