Piteous Fools! The time has come
When all men seek to be is numb.
The toils of our daily life
Do overwhelm us all with strife
Within ourselves; we aim to find
A refuge somewhere for our mind
To have its day of rest; the means
May vary, as do our routines,
From day to day, from man to man,
From place to place, from clan to clan:
He takes a shot, and she a sip,
And from their anguish both shall slip;
The great allure of blinking screens,
With clever memes or smutty scenes,
Will tantalize as they fluoresce,
Distracting from our mental stress;
Assorted drugs that blunt the brain,
From opioids to Mary Jane,
(Of varying legality)
Will work to dull acuity
In those who turn to them. You see
The marvelous variety
Of methods to anesthetize
The issues in our daily lives—
I could go on, lest these my words
Repetitive become, like birds
A-chirping ceaselessly, and hence
Become a means to dull your sense.

We aim to be made numb. That we
Do live in such society—
That it lives on, a cancerous wreck,
Such great inheritance made dreck
By foolish men (who’ll stay unnamed):
To hand this down, I am ashamed—
Depresses me beyond belief.
And thus to deal with all this grief
O’er our societal distress,
I seek to be made numb. Oh yes!
I look not from the outside in:
I’m one of those, with much chagrin,
Who sees our shared and sorry state,
And thus is tempted to abate
Afflictions that torment the soul
Increasingly. “If I control
Myself,” I thought, “perhaps I can
Gird up my loins now, like a man!”
Alas, I can’t: my fortitude
(If not dissolved) is quite subdued:
The means that make opaque my pain
Do thereby my resolve enchain,
Methinks; thus, due to lack of spine,
Uneasily I may resign
To blanch my worries quietly,
At one with my society.
With men deprived and men depraved,
Then who among us shall be saved?

The Noonday Demon reigns supreme—
At least, to me, it does so seem;
His mark, on neither head nor hand,
Yet can be found in every land:
Those melancholic mild-eyes
That stare out to the dark-blue skies,
And mumble out with whispered breath:
“Give us long rest or death, dark death,
Or dreamful ease.” But does this please,
To mitigate and to appease
Our woes? Alas, ‘tis all for naught,
For once the rest we seek is caught,
Then we shall suffer nonetheless,
And so increase our mental stress:
The waters sought so direly
Are sullied so entirely
By dust that burns the weary throat,
Preventing use as antidote
To thirst, and still we drink it up—
“Drink up the plague, prepare the cup!”
We say, deep in our heart of hearts:
We trick ourselves, in fits and starts,
To assuage our futility
By feigning some utility
In our search for tranquility—
Or, dare I say, senility.
It thus seems rest is death and rot;
We seek out death and find it not.

And as ennui enveloped me,
It suddenly occurred to me:
One numbs the pain, so too the joys
Dissolve, like music into noise…



Thomas Benstead is a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

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7 Responses

  1. Ryan Watch

    My compliments to you Mr. Benstead for composing this intriguing ode that accurately captures the hopelessness and melancholia of our time. I was particularly riveted by your poem’s first stanza, as they sketch a sorrowful, yet realistic picture of how people cope with the despair and suffering caused by the recent pandemic. I was also impressed with the rhythmic rhyming scheme that you applied throughout the ode, and it inspired me to write a poem of my own (albeit in a zejel form.) Once again, my compliments and gratitude to you for inspiring me with your insightful and profound poem.

    “Thoughts of a Romantic Thinker Born in a Modern Age”
    Why was I born inside this cage?
    This prison called the modern age.

    A time where people care for gold
    Waging their wars with hearts so cold.
    We watch watch our world’s ruin unfold
    This prison called the modern age.

    An age where technology starts,
    And all the love for art departs.
    Thus children lose their open hearts
    In this prison, the modern age.

    If only I went back in time,
    Back when the world was in its prime.
    That time when art flourished its rhyme;
    Yet, I’m here in this modern age.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Watch,
      I think a large part of the sorrow and suffering with which we have to cope stems from their NOT having been caused by the “pandemic.”

      • Ryan Watch

        A error on my part as we have struggled to cope with our inner issues before the pandemics.

  2. Gail

    Wow! Yes, but please don’t resign. Perseverance matters more than fortitude.
    (Here a little, there a little. Every single jot and tittle. Ha!)

    Marching on . . . you, too? I need to get on with my (real!) day–too much noise in here.

  3. Margaret Coats

    In accord with its mostly tetrameter line length, this poem reads quickly, because the poet has quite carefully crafted the flow of words and of thought. The short ending stanza is very effective. The topic would suggest a burlesque ode, but the treatment seems serious most of the time, showing excellent management of tone. Well done, Mr. Benstead.

  4. Daniel Kemper

    I liked the punchy conclusion.

    Bukowski said, “Endurance is more important than Truth.”


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