Brow Beat

In the Ninth Circle, A Misunderstood Angel

A normal, relatable guy having lunch somewhere near Dayton, Ohio.

Guglielmo Giraldi/Vatican Library

Here’s a story from today’s New York Times.


Vexilla regis prodeunt Applebee
    towards us; so look that way,”
    My tour guide said. “Can you see?”

As when darkness at the end of day,
    Or a black fog, softly exhaling,
    Reveals a windmill far away,

A towering sign came calling,
    That neon apple lit our way,
    Past endless suburbs sprawling.

I was now, it frightens me to say,
    In the states they color red,
    The people there are seeds of hay.

You can’t find good rye bread.
    Then Siri told us, “Exit right,”
    “We’re here,” my tour guide said.  

I cannot put in words the fright
    I felt parking our rental.
    I’d parachuted in to shine a light

On culture Occidental:
    Profiling chic white nationalists
    Without getting judgmental.

“Forza!” my guide said, “Rationalists
    Should never fear unreason.”
    Heartened, I spoke. “It’s my belief we all can coexist!”

My tour guide grimaced for some reason.
    Then shook it off, and led me to
    A place where food’s unseasoned.

“Through me you pass into the city of woe;
    “Through me, you pass into eternal pain,”
    —Strange language for a menu!

In a darkened corner booth, the white nationalist reigned,
    But even at that distance I could see
    Upon his arm, a swastika; upon his breast, grease stains.

O, what a marvel it appeared to me!
    When I beheld the heads he used for munching,
    His shoulders bore not one, not two, but three.

And at each mouth, he with his teeth was crunching
    His food. O, what a ghastly sight!
    Upon three appetizers he was lunching.

Cheeseburger eggrolls to the right,
    The center head devoured beef nachos.
    And on the left, the restaurant’s sickly lights,

Glistened off chicken wonton tacos.
    My quarry swilled a foul-smelling elixir
    As to his booth we walked-o.

I found my courage in a glass of liquor drowned in mixer,
    “I’m a writer for the New York Times,
    And Virgil here’s my fixer.

“Relax,” I said, as he looked up. “We won’t expose your crimes.
    I promise that this interview won’t leave a bruise.
    I promise I won’t make you look like slime.”

At last he spoke. “I hate the Jews.
    The earth’s not for the meek.
    According to my Nazi views,

“The strong must eat the weak.”
    “I see,” I said, then fired back,
    “But do you like Twin Peaks?

At that my faithful guide gave me a fearsome smack,
    So hard it was, I trembled with the pain
    Quoth he, “Your interviewing style is whack!”

I told him then, “Dear guide, let me explain:
    Slathering on pointless nuance is my job,
    Our readers seem to love things in that vein.

“The system will reward me if I fall for this guy’s snow job,
    I’ll win next year’s Pulitzer Prize
    For Journalistic Blowjobs!”

At this, my guide looked deep into my eyes,
    And disappointed, shook his head. “You know,
    No good will come from helping evil put on a disguise.”

“You’re wrong,” said I. “Thinkpieces show
    The world evil’s banality!”
    He gazed upon me sadly then, as though,

Regretting he had brought me.
    “My dude. A Dante you are not.
    He’s just a fuckin’ Nazi.”