Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Stranger in the House

 —Poetry by Joshua C. Frank
—Cartoons Courtesy of Public Domain


If solidified oil with chemical clutter
That helps it look yellow and tasty to eat
Makes you think there’s no need to believe it’s
not butter,
You believe in modernity’s biggest deceit.

If you think things can just be replaced with a
And the ghost of what’s good is on par with
the best,
If chemical mixtures that go in a bottle
Can replace Mother’s milk and the warmth of
her breast,

If changing appearance is all that is needed
To match the real thing if you only pretend,
If killing a game villain means you’ve succeeded
And a shadow of color onscreen is a friend,

If pretend’s just as good and you’re happy to settle
For text in a chat thread instead of a life,
If androids are people with hearts made of metal
And pixels of flesh are as good as a wife,

If any religion’s the same as another
And feelings and fiction are equal to fact,
If a pet parent’s just like a father or mother
And a fatherless family’s as good as intact,

If you still think this fake bubble life doesn’t
make you
As homeless as beggars who sleep in the street,
If this insect-hive world of today doesn’t
shake you,
You believe in modernity’s biggest deceit.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)


While all his friends were learning skills
To gain them wives or pay their bills,
John fought with monsters on a screen,
Got knighted by a game world’s queen,
Amassing troves of digi-treasure
That bought eight bits of gaming pleasure.

But as the habit lasted longer,
John’s dungeon shackles grew much stronger.
His friends moved on and all gained wives
While he sat gaining extra lives—
One-upped by men just half his age
Who’d put in time and earned life’s wage.

One day, much older, John awoke
And felt his electronic yoke:
No friends, no wife, and children none,
His life still stalled at World 1-1.
No princess wishes to be saved
By a gaming hero thus enslaved.

John’s game-themed room now seemed a waste,
An emblem of his time misplaced.
No dragon’s hoard of jewels and gold
Could buy back time and youth he’d sold
For shiny bits of program code—
He wept beside perdition’s road.

But, leaving home and breaking free,
He had no guide for strategy.
The social world seemed too complex
To a man who lived in pixel specks,
And so he ran back home to game,
Never quitting, to his shame.
The moral of this tale in rhyme?
Work while you’re young, don’t waste your time.
Don’t put your life goals off till later;
Shoot down your schedule’s space-invaders,
Or, like our captured gamer guy,
You’ll find your life has passed you by.

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)


Based on a story circulating online at least
since 1999

My dad once met a stranger in the mall,
New to our town, just months before my birth.
The stranger moved in quickly with us all
And soon became the source of endless mirth.

My mother taught us how to love God’s Word;
My father taught obedience is key,
But from the stranger, our whole family heard
All kinds of captivating tales for free.

Adventures, mysteries, and jokes he told,
And tales of kinder, gentler times of ours.
He drew realistic pictures and could hold
Our family spellbound every night for hours.

He took my parents with me and my brother
To sports events and movies every week,
To meals with actors, movie stars, and other
Celebrities who made us feel so chic.

The stranger spoke nonstop; Dad didn’t mind.
But sometimes Mom would quietly walk away.
While we were all enthralled, she’d go behind
Her bedroom door to read her Bible and pray.

I think she prayed the stranger soon would leave,
For though Dad ruled the house by moral code,
The stranger didn’t care what we believe
Or honor this, our straight and narrow road.

Though Dad would never let a person curse
Within his walls, the stranger freely spoke
Four-letter words like “damn” and “hell” and
But Dad would not condemn the words he’d croak.
Though Dad called alcohol “the devil’s brew,”
The stranger offered us his wine and beer.
He said we all should be exposed to new
And different ways of life to see and hear.

He made tobacco smoking look refined,
Though Mom and Dad have prayed we never
He scoffed at sacred marriage and maligned
Its holy bed routinely as a joke.

At first, the smut he spouted scorched my ears;
He told a twisted tale of what love is.
But as my brother and I advanced in years,
Our views on marriage slowly changed to his.

Again, again, opposing Mom and Dad,
He never was rebuked or asked to leave.
He always preached in favor of what’s bad,
Yet somehow we weren’t able to perceive.

Though thirty years have passed, the stranger’s
Still drawing, telling tales of fantasy
To Mom and Dad, who’ve now no other care.
We always called him by his name... “TV.”

(First published in The Society of Classical Poets)


Today’s LittleNip:

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

—Groucho Marx


—Medusa, with thanks to Joshua Frank for today’s fine, cautionary poetry!


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