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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Camping Out on the Styx

by George Drew

The devil is not as black as he is painted.
Never in a million infinities could I imagine
the numbers, the sheer mathematical mass of applicants,
and these after only a few thousands of years
on their own outside The Garden, that supposedly perfect
little Paradise I breached, snaking my way in.

God knows, between the low-income remnants
of a discredited class of Noble Savages
with their golems and grinches, witches and warlocks,
voodoo, Friday the thirteenths, black cats and bad-luck ladders,
middle-class mammon-driven suburbanites with their heavy
metal, their punk and goth and grunge,
and those growing green legions of entitlement,
the super rich, it’s impossible to accommodate them all.

That’s one problem, another that there’s already an acute
shortage of housing—very few low-income hovels,
fewer single-demon duplexes, and no demonic mansions
available for subdivision. And as for high-rises,
Hell is all about the low and not so mighty,
and in Hell there’s no sky for anything to rise to,
and no time to do it. Hell is about the pit, not the pendulum.

So you see our dilemma. Nothing’s normal, not even me.
Pitchforks are so passé they’re incredibly hard to come by.
And cloven hooves? Forget it. Even I,
Chief Fiend and Overlord of Hell’s real estate,
love my Gorgonic galoshes. And as for forked tails,
well, I didn’t assume the shape of a snake for nothing.
I saw the light, its threat. I ditched the forked tail for good.

Endless our Pandemonium, but not its capacity,
its infernal For Rent. Even Charon has hung up his oars,
and the ambiance of Hell isn’t what it was before this
population explosion of rapists, pedophiles, serial killers,
domestic abusers and—in the name of God, mind you—
mass murderers and the usual herd of everyday psychopaths;
Anti-Souls who pitch their tents on the shore of the Styx,
doomed refugees with no place to go, Hades gated.

Never in a billion infinities could I imagine
letting all of them in. There’s only so much brimstone,
so much fire to parcel out for new construction,
only so much bullion-dross, so much massy ore.
In Hell the old is new, nothing reduced to ashes. Ever.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

George Drew

is the author of The View from Jackass Hill, winner of the 2010 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, published in 2011 by Texas Review Press which also released his Pastoral Habits (2016), co-winner of the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Poetry Book and a Finalist for The Lascaux Review’s Poetry Book Prize. Fancy’s Orphan, his eighth and most recent book, was published in 2017 by Tiger Bark Press.

His poems appear in the anthologies Down to the Dark River (Louisiana Literature Press, 2015) and The Great American Wise Ass Anthology of Poetry (Lamar University Literary Press, 2016), and in such venues as Atticus Review, Cider Press Review, Common Ground Review, Easy Street, Gargoyle Magazine, Harpur Palate, Solstice Magazine, St. Petersburg Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and the Timberline Review (scroll down for the Q&A Please tell us about...).

Drew’s reviews and essays have been published in Atticus Review, BigCityLit, FutureCycle, Louisiana Literature, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, The Texas Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

Other awards include the 2016 Knightville Poetry Contest (sponsored by The New Guard) and the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Poetry Book of 2009 (for his poetry collection American Cool). His chapbook, Down & Dirty (Texas Review Press, 2015), was a finalist for the 2013 Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize. In 2016, he received a Bucks County Muse Award for contributions to the Bucks County, Pennsylvania literary community. Originally from Mississippi, Drew now lives in upstate New York.

Author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury