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Justified Sunrises: From the Gutter to Eastern Ranges

Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

— Dante’s Inferno, Canto 1

Every single line of every written page faces the journey from the gutter of a new line, to the false sunrise of its terminus, before beginning again. Through this line of logic, there is no singular beginning when every beginning follows an end. Eyes wander the familiar surroundings of a certain poem’s justification upon the page, spatial choices the poet made for reasons beyond the known, even to the poet. In the midst of writing any page of a fledging story, the writer might feel as Dante did before entering the Underworld, in the dark forest where the straight path has been lost. For the reader or writer, a book becomes a world unto itself, some systems richer than others, but countless linear deaths take place under their gazes, line after line. Hopes and expectations crawl out of the gutter in every line, only to fall into the abyss at the edge of the end of the linear world, the line break.

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,

Vested already with that planet’s rays

Which leadeth others right by every road.

— Inferno, Canto 1

Limits define everything, from the metaphysical ends of the universe to the keys beneath my fingers. Lines of thought never run so in the brain — that gray and fickle thing — only upon the page. Through those lines, a sense of progression can unfold for the writer, not unlike the first steps into the woods to begin a hundred-mile hike, full of energy and promise. Those same lines can evoke a sense of doom, since the normative world of the writer’s intentions might be failing to rise through the linear lives and deaths of these lines, those slow-burns of seraph-guided trails winding down into (…). The writer looks upward at all that came before, until reaching the top of the page’s plateau, through all the words that preceded the void below, words that held the promise of an imagined world, only to lead down into the abyss. Every page that precedes this one are just as guilty, even if the last chapter was a gutter-full of distant sunrises over climactic mountain peaks. The best to be hoped for is that half-light of Dusk that leads to the right, Eastward bound, but only in that direction, over and over again, since the singular path always drops off into nothingness, the world beyond the page.

So bitter is it, death is little more;

But of the good to treat, which there I found,

Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

— Inferno, Canto I

Distinct moments are often experienced with an uncanny sense of retrospect, as if the stark distinction of this moment from the ones before makes it immediately memorable, a history of Now. Dante writes on the bitterness of his midlife, the metaphorical step away from death, but the need to carry on, through a literal step down into the mouth of Hell. In this moment of Canto I, the linear deaths of each line are a paradoxical vital urge into the next step, another word more, another line beneath the line in this Poem of poems.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say

What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,

Which in the very thought renews the fear…


Thoughts are like bolts of lightning through the fog of the mind’s perpetual storm, a bolt that strikes life into the dead space of the page. Darkness always follows the flashes, allows for them to interrupt. Death is always marginalized, on the actual page and in life. But those linear deaths of every line promise another line, even if THE END is all that’s left. Through the limits that define the writer and reader, where their skulls end and actual space begins, more books full of linear deaths are stacked and lined up in their bound latency, possible worlds that only exist under the wandering eye.

Hayden Moore

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