We want to think
that Hell also obeys
punishment proportional to
distortion of boundaries,
sin contained like
notes off-key
within the larger harmonies.

A pleasant abstraction
this Hell, with
furies naughty but nice,
pleasant intellectual meanderings
armchair bound,
Dante, domesticated, with
lights on, doors shut, blinds closed.

Yet we shiver.
We feel dark things
that coil and lash and dart
beneath the tenuous configuration
of social dance,
we sense
snake eyes, luminous,
peeping through keyholes,

The Vortex

Hypnotic, insistent,
its fragmented pieces of
rhythmic throbs
indifferent overseers of the flux,
Time passes.
The vortex whirls life
in limpid flow,
shadow traces of passage
in aging, dissolution,

Iraq II, 14 September 04

Smoke rises
in vaporous ribbons
that curve and curl
in lazy flow
above the deflagration.

A windless flutter
fills the sunlit air
as multitudes of
sudden dead
drift skyward,
Purgatory paid.

Iraq IV, 21 September 2004

Spirits watch
above the charnel grounds,
filmy multitudes in somber homage
to sobbing life
waiting the final blow
and peace.

Dark shadows dance in dervish glee
as brutality
chants in sing-song gutterals
its condemnation.

The voice drifts on, interminable,
mumbling incantations
to an idol
flesh fed,
blood drunk,
hell born.

The voice pauses, stops.
Oppressive minutes pass
before the knife, raised, falls.
Dark peace, begged for,
enshrouds now
the sacrificial lamb.


Dark things
flap leathery wings
as they drift in lazy circles,

Hungry-eyed they watch
the blood soaked spot
that webs in rivulets
to black waters.
A vampire thirst
infernal intelligence,
coveting night
for complement of contract
and reaping of souls.


An acrid ghost scent
fills the air
odoring of dampness
A red smell
seeps into pores
tendrils of fear
web and multiply
rooting icy threads
in a heart
by sudden certainty.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Janet Butler is a TOEFL Instructor, translator
and watercolor painter currently living in Italy. She collabrated with Dr.
Romeo Giuli in the translation of his poetry from 1997 to 2003 and a
selection of these poems have been published by Solveig Publishing, Siena,
Italy. After this collaboration, she decided to dedicate herself to her own
creative writing. Her poetry has been published in VoicesNet Anthologies,
Scrivener’s Pen, FrontStreet Review, Ken*again, which also published four of
her watercolors, Pedestal Magazine: The Political Anthology, Tilt (UK),
Underground Window, ForPoetry, Subtle Tea, and in the forthcoming January,
2005 Issue of Prose Toad.

© 2005 Underground Voices