Paul Bone

Moment of Dante

A simile of peasants watching fireflies
blink from the misty cup of a valley
had made us all nostalgic. Sick of me,
of journeys, they forgot that this was hell,
where Odysseus, random Florentine hacks,
and bad high-school counselors burned
in flames as pointed as hood ornaments.
Just then the power in the building failed.
As quick as passage from one canto to
the next, they pulled their phones
from their pockets or beside their notes
and flipped them open as you might a wallet.
It happened all at once, reflexively.
The lights from all the phones, blue as lapis,
brought just their faces back from the abyss
for that moment, heads detached from their bodies.
The precise moment when the moment vanished
was when they began to look for each other,
cautious to swing their lights, unfocused
and eerie that they were, behind, beside,
until the edges of their spheres united
and they remembered they were not alone.
And then the lights came back. A nervous chatter.
We tried to think of you again, unsure
of what had happened, sure at least
that there was no more lesson that day.

Paul Bone is the author of Momentary Vision of the Assistant Meteorologist (Uccelli, 2005) and Nostalgia for Sacrifice (David Robert Books, forthcoming). He is chair of Creative Writing at the University of Evansville and co-editor of Measure.