This second book of That Still Abiding Fire is again modeled on Dante's Divine Comedy, and also uses the terza rima form that generates terse expressiveness if handled correctly. But here hell is more contemporary — not some bottomless pit where sinners are treated to ever more diabolical torments, but the world around us, how we adulterate and ruin what should be beneficent and beautiful.
This, the most uncomfortable section of the series, describes the miseries of war and civil unrest. As before, the sections are built around characters, some actual and some fictional, but all are telling real stories. We move from the Mongol conquests and their impact on the Muslim world, to journeys of the Buddhist monk Huanzang, and then to the Vietnam War. Power misused features in the next section, the war in Afghanistan and its perpetrators, Bush and Blair. Next comes the holocaust and Nazi medical experiments, and then, via Saint Francis, the Crusader conquest of the Holy Land.
The conquest of the New World forms the next section, and this is followed by the civil wars of nineteenth century China. To bring us up to date the poem ends with the Mexico drug war and contemporary business practices.
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