The Thing About Hell
The thing about hell, the chemistry
professor says, as if there’s only one,
is that it doesn’t make sense. Fires
that burn without end. Noise. Hot air.
He instructs us to forget about smoke
and the space it needs to pour into,
so I set aside battlefields and consider
how money from the G.I. bill lowers
my financial aid, how much loans
weigh, if hell is part of any equation,
the class purview, or better served by
painting, writing stories. What about fuel?
Radiation with a half-life of forever.
The class is quiet. I sit in the middle of
the room, hoping to pass unnoticed. Not
enough wood or coal, inadequate heat or
oxygen are the sticking points for the
teacher, allow him to conclude without
considering the blaze of immortal souls.
He moves on to heaven, dismisses it not
for an overabundance of harps or robes,
but joy: no person can be content for so long.
Where’s the core? He demands measurement
of sanity first and cast-iron fact second, a
bond he can calculate, a diagram to show how
to believe. That’s when I raise my hand and
show him a drawing I’ve made, a doodle while
he’s lectured, wondering if he’ll see the
pineal gland, Horus’ eye, or at least a third
one, some elusive valence--lymph node
dreams—in what I’d meant to be a self portrait,
and whether I’m happy with the picture.
About the Author: Matt Kolbet teaches and writes in Oregon. His second novel, Lunar Year, was published by Champlain Avenue Books last year.