I once saw a head of Hellsgate
In a book of old English tales
on an illustrated page
(at the side of the stage
Of a touring troupe from Wales).
The face was betwisted and mottled
With sores and warts and moles
and the biggest maw
you ever saw
As if hungry for passing souls
In the back of a pub, or the tar pits,
Or the next, or the next-to-next town
where you too would be sent
if you didn’t repent:
And it looked like a long way down.
Since then, I’ve seen myriad movies
Full of horror, vice, grossness and gore
where the portal to hell
was a myth to dispel
Only to visit once more.
One night, in the rear of a tavern,
I overheard casual chatter
about stealing, extortion,
adultery, abortion. . .
I went out the back. (Does it matter
That on the back door was a door plaque
With a hells-mouth?) And then rose a laughter
so piercing and scar-
y I raced out of there—
I hear it yet, now, decades after.