by Martin Rowson
In the hot stifling tiny room
The cold dead eyes blanked
Even an iota
Of their torment or their tears
Or their mourning as the dead voice
Catechized on quotas,
Spoke flatly of the processes,
Rules, restrictions, retributions,
The penalties compounded by each error,
The limits on their movements,
The denial of information,
The incremental, automatic ratchetting of terror
Until, right at the end,
The mask slipped for an instant
As they stood to be led out and their feet began to burn:
The demon scratched its horns and shrugged
And mumbled, "I just don't get it.
When will these klutzes ever learn?
Why do they keep on coming here at all?
Ah well. Funny old world." The demon coughed into the sulphurous air
And picked up a pile of ledgers
As on the wall behind it
The current Hell Secretary's portrait
Got crisper at its edges
While they were led away
To a distant pit, to wait. And wait. And wait
And wait among rank upon innumerable rank
Of those who'd made it this far,
Far further than the corpses washing through the clinker
And clumping along the Styx's opposite bank.