Advice from Dante

“If you hear nostrums* in the market cried,
Behave like men, and not like witless sheep.” —Dante, Paradiso, Canto V

Behave like men, and not like witless sheep.
The CDC has shown no evidence
That covering one’s face with cloth will keep
The people near us “safe”—that it prevents
A virus from fulfilling its intent.
Until this year, it’s always been apparent
That if in fact I am asymptomatic,
You need not fear me. It’s undemocratic
To force a farce-mask mandate. It’s naïve
For any thinking grownup to believe
That hiding two-thirds of our countenance
Will send a virus packing. Common sense
Tells us this is false—a nonsense nostrum—
Just as absurd as Whitmer, Wolf, or Newsom
Pretending to be kind and sympathetic.
If you think that this talisman is magic,
Recall: we’ve always known that it is burglars
And kidnappers who hide their faces. Logic
And law both warn that when we are in public,
Our faces should be seen.
___________________We won’t do favors
To anyone by trusting as our saviors
Such bureaucrats as vacillating Fauci
And WHO—as if they care about our health
More than their drive for power. (They get grouchy,
In fact, when we find out about their stealth
And catch them breaking their own useless rules!)
How blind do sheepish people have to be
To trust the facial-diaper “remedy”?
They’re laughing at us, thinking we are fools
Who don’t know how to reason critically.
(And, don’t think this is only temporary;
Clearly that was never what they meant—
Counting sheep, by masks, was the intent.)
Until a year ago, it was just common
Sense that if I’m well, I can’t make someone
Else sick. The study shows we aren’t contagious;**
Abusing the word “science” is outrageous.
How have we let them take so much control
That we can’t even see each other smile?
How have men become so gullible
As to believe the tyrants’ baseless guile,
And sacrifice their right to oxygen?
Don’t act like witless sheep. Behave like men
And women. Don’t give tyrants the control
Over your face, because their final goal
Is to possess your body and your soul.


*nostrum: a questionable medicine or remedy (I had to look it up.)
**A study completed in December 2020, of nearly ten million people in Wuhan, concluded that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 didn’t occur at all. : (www.lifesitenews.com/news/asymptomatic-transmission-of-covid-19-didn’t-occur-at-all-study-of-10-million-finds)



Do What?

“Treat your mask like underwear.” (seen on an actual bulletin board at an actual senior center)

Treat your mask like underwear—
Don’t ever let it near your face!
Such things are private, so take care
To save yourself from this disgrace.



Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Royal Oak, Michigan.  She has had poems published in First Things, Modern Age, Measure Journal, Anglican Theological Review, The North American Anglican, Forward in Christ, and the Anthologies The Slumbering Host (ed. Clinton Collister), and A Widening Light, (ed. Luci Shaw)

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20 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Bravo, Cynthia, twice!!!
    And a third time for your brilliant closing couplet of “Advice from Dante”.

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you so much, Joe! Your comments mean a great deal to me!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Cynthia, thank you for speaking out with poetic eloquence and panache on a subject that few are brave enough to mention. “Advice from Dante” brings up the views of independent scientists shut down because their finds don’t align with government-employed “experts”… if that doesn’t alarm people in this increasingly evil era of cancel culture… it should. Whatever one’s opinion on the subject, we should at least take into account the alternative studies on the efficacy of the mask.

    I love “Do What?” What a strange way to sell health and safety. I think it could be the next SCP challenge. I simply couldn’t resist:

    “Treat your mask like underwear”
    Rip that muzzle from your head.
    It’s destined for a derrière,
    So stick it on your ass instead.

    Then tell the gasping, grouchy fools,
    Wheezing in their Wuhan woe,
    The Pox Fox has announced new rules
    To stuff their mufflers down below…

    Crush the curve! Jump the bump!
    Bare your face and gag your rump!

    Tomorrow, I’m doing my monthly shop with my knickers on my head! I bet it won’t raise an eyebrow in Walmart. lol

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Susan, you continually amaze me with not only how well, but how FAST you write! When I read your repartee to “Do What?”, I really did laugh out loud — and then read it to my husband, Paul, and we both laughed out loud! Yours is hands down funnier than mine. (In fact, I can only take credit for the third and fourth lines; Line one was on the bulletin board, and as soon as I told Paul about it, he blurted out the second line!) It’s really fun that we both have husbands who write. 🙂

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Cynthia, I’m thrilled you and Paul had a good laugh… that was my intention. And thank you very much for the inspiration!

        It is indeed fun to have husbands who share in our passion for poetry. Mike and I love poetry so much, we’ve started to communicate in rhyming couplets. LOL Keep writing, smiling and publishing your poems – Mike and I thoroughly enjoy them.

      • Cynthia Erlandson

        And please do give us all a report on your knicker-headed trip to Walmart!

      • Cynthia Erlandson

        That is absolutely fantastic! I think I’ll try that! Thank you, Mike!

    • Norma Pain

      Knickers on my head…. I love it. I am doing a visual of everyone with their knickers on their heads. Oh, if only everyone would comply to that request, what a laugh we would all enjoy.

      Thank you for this wonderful humor.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Norma, my husband and I are setting a new Knickered-Noggin trend here on the coastal plains of Texas… and I think it’s catching on. 😉

  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Cynthia –
    Yours is an excellent approach to all the “masking”.
    Thanks very much !

  4. Paul Freeman

    Requiem for a Non-Face Coverer

    An astronaut went into space
    and said, “I shan’t obstruct my face.
    These visors are for witless sheep,
    Mandated by some NASA creep.
    Trump University has said
    A helmet just constricts your head.”
    So on a mission EVA
    He took his helmet off, and hey,
    What happened next, I’m sure you’ve guessed,
    Explosively he decompressed.

    • Mike Bryant

      Every study proves that the symptom-free do not spread the wuhan flu. Every study proves that masks do not stop viruses. Please don’t be anti-science. My body, my choice.
      Why are healthy people in quarantine? It ain’t science, it’s compliance. Shut up and do what I say? Not in Texas, son, and not today.


      Make sure you watch the short video…

      “Walk toward the fire. Don’t worry about what they call you. All those things are said against you because they want to stop you in your tracks. But if you keep going, you’re sending a message to people who are rooting for you, who are agreeing with you. The message is that they can do it, too.” ― Andrew Breitbart

  5. BDW

    Ms. Erlandson’s “Do What?” is a head turner indeed. To take a pamphlet slogan’s trochaic tetrameter and run it through a succinct, ironic, iambic-tetrameter quatrain was a neat trick.

  6. BDW

    Just a literary note, in reference to Ms. Erlandson’s quatrain: my own docupoetry has been influenced by poets in the realm of what Mao Dun (1896-1981) has called the “hypertrophy of slogans”, in reference to the poetry of Jiang Guanei from Anhui, who cried over Lenin’s death (but who was later considered a traitor): 1) Modernist American E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) and 2) to a lesser degree, Chinese Modernist Yuan Shuipai, pen name Ma Fantuo (1907-1983).

  7. Daniel Kemper

    I’m late to the chase — apologies. I’m glad to see a strong pushback. Arts need a non-monocultural voice. I particularly liked the closing:
    “Don’t act like witless sheep. Behave like men
    And women. Don’t give tyrants the control
    Over your face, because their final goal
    Is to possess your body and your soul.”

    –which called us to be strong (and slightly updated Dante’s language to include women). This is one that that liberals never call for.


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