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  • Anxious Poets Society

Right Through Hell by Alan Altany

More powerful than a locomotive,

able to leap reality in a single bound,

it’s a nuclear bomb, it’s a super computer:

it’s the age-old strain of virulent addiction.

Once in its ravenous and raptor claws,

you are compressed into such dead weight

that suffocation haunts each breath;

there seems absolutely no exit, no way.

Time constricts into tremors

with each fiery ache for more

to distract the monster’s clutch

for a few exhausting moments.

It’s all abject anguish as normal

while the world pays no heed

to the addict’s collapse from within,

unable to imagine life without

the frigid beast gripping the soul.

Impossible to change the dire momentum, nothing can relieve the secret insanity

except those first fierce cross-beams

of being loved in the dark light of day

as the plague is slowly cauterized,

as breathing rises beyond constriction.

The path to recovering birth goes

into the desert, right through Hell,

in a trajectory of grotesque beauty.


Alan Altany, Ph.D., is a septuagenarian college professor of religious studies. He’s been a factory worker, swineherd on a farm, hotel clerk, lawn maintenance worker, small magazine of poetry editor, director of religious education for churches, truck driver, novelist, etc. He published a book of poetry in 2022 entitled A Beautiful Absurdity. His website is

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