The Tech Addict’s Lament

As I take one more hit of electronic cocaine,
I snort a fresh shot of noise into my brain
And feel the cacophony’s endless refrain
Charging at me like a runaway train.

I collapse on the floor, and I think, “What a drain!
I’d love to walk out, and I’d love to abstain,
But the slowness of real-space seems flat and mundane.”
So, I’m tied to the tech with a thick iron chain.



Ballad of the Video-Game Hero

I rode in a mine cart, back home from the land
__Of my favorite video game,
Through the pixelized prairie and vast seas of sand,
__Over rivers of lava and flame.

The hero sat there in the rickety cart
__Staring off into pixel-sky space,
Much older than on the game cartridge’s art,
__With tears on his wide, wrinkled face.

“I’m leaving and never returning,” he said.
__“Come listen and hear my sad story.
The princess and I, we hoped someday to wed,
__Way back in the days of my glory.

“The dragon would kidnap the princess, then I
__Would run through an obstacle course
To his minions’ dark castles in mountains up high
__And take back their strongholds by force.

“My princess was in the last castle I’d raid;
__I always found treasures to haul.
The Kingdom would welcome me with a parade
__And a sumptuous banquet for all.

“But after some years, the dragon found ways
__To undermine me and my quest.
He gave up the tactic of ‘pillage and raze’—
__Bribed the people with treasure-filled chests!

“My princess then fell for the dragon’s top minion;
__The Kingdom surrendered the war
And exiled me out of the dragon’s dominion—
__They don’t want to be saved anymore!”

We came to my world, and we sealed up the gate
__To the land of his video game.
My world is secured from his land’s tragic fate,
__But I’m worried for us just the same.

For evil has bribed all the people here, too,
__With shiny new gadgets galore.
No more do they care for what’s good and what’s true—
__They don’t want to be saved anymore!



One-Man Duet

There’s a musician on the ’Net
With himself in a duet.
On the screen, the doubled fellow
Plays both violin and cello.
To viewers, it would thus appear
That he’s two players, like we hear.

First he played the violin,
Recorded it with his machine,
Then played his cello, harmonized
With silent notes, all mechanized—
No soul, no mind behind what brings
A faithful echo of his strings.

While playing both the parts alone,
Recording selfies on his phone,
He knows bowed instruments are made
With other people to be played.
What kind of world must he abide,
Where no one’s playing at his side?



Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas. 

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30 Responses

  1. Roy E. Peterson

    These are three excellent poems exposing the hollowness of our new tech world impinging on our lives. Especially trenchant for me was the last verse in the second poem:
    “For evil has bribed all the people here, too,
    __With shiny new gadgets galore.
    No more do they care for what’s good and what’s true—
    __They don’t want to be saved anymore!”

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Roy! Yes, that bit was based on an awful truth I realized not long after I became serious about my faith.

  2. Stephen Dickey

    I really enjoyed all three of these.
    Am I right that the first two are in sprung rhythm? I can’t make sense of the meter otherwise. And if so, is there any reason why you chose it? Its combination with the subject is appealing to me.

    • Damian Robin

      I think the last poem’s meter is basically iambic tetrameter with a few beginning syllables dropped and a need for heavy stress on the first ‘a’ in the first line.

      With lines 3 and 4 having no unstressed first syllables and with added last syllables, they run like trochaic tetrameter.

      The dominant meter is iambic tetrameter.

      • Stephen Dickey

        Right. I was asking about the first two, which I cannot get to be iambic tetrameter.

      • Margaret Coats

        The lament is anapestic tetrameter, with a number of substitutions. The ballad has anapestic tetrameter alternating with anapestic trimeter, while ballad stanza is usually iambic tetrameter and iambic trimiter,

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Stephen!

      Margaret has the answer to your question. The metrical substitutions are in there because I liked the effect for these poems.

      • Stephen Dickey

        Thanks to you both, with a little internet research I now understand how these substitutions work. Always nice to learn something new.

  3. Damian Robin

    Thank you Joshua for your three-fold trouncing of on-line entertainment and stuck-ness.

    Maybe, working in the field of statistics, you have a lot of forced keyboard experience. You seem to have come out sane. Well done.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Damian!

      I do have to spend a lot of time at the computer each day, but it’s for work, not addictive in any way. It’s electronic entertainment that’s been more of a struggle…

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, what a delightful trio of poetic treats on the pitfalls of the technological age we live in. I love the way ‘The Tech Addict’s Lament’ romps along gathering speed (no pun intended) with particularly effective use of monorhyme. I am certain we can all see ourselves in this. It’s highly entertaining while serving as a grave warning. Well done!

    ‘Ballad of the Video-Game Hero’ is also engaging and very well executed, though, my favorite of the three is ‘One-Man Duet’ – it touches my heart with its message, which to me is a metaphor for the sad and lonely world we inhabit today… technology may well have advanced, but our spirits are withering without the company we crave as human beings. Great stuff, Josh! Thank you!

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      … I also love Evan’s choice of accompanying image. It showcases the poetry perfectly.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Susan! I’m so glad you like them!

      I felt the same way as you as I wrote “One-Man Duet.” I thought of it when I saw videos like the one I describe; I had to write it because I saw it as the exact same metaphor as you do.

  5. Brian Yapko

    Josh, all three of these poems are well-done, entertaining and carry a walloping cautionary message about the role technology plays in our lives (more specifically, technology which addresses communication and entertainment – no one is railing against MRI machines and microwave ovens!) . In each case that you present we see technology overpower human spirit, whether it is the “electronic cocaine” in the Tech Addict’s Lament or the way evil has bribed all the people of this world “with shiny gadgets galore.”

    I agree with Susan, however, and choose “One Man Duet” as my favorite of the set. There is pathetic loneliness in the image of the musician playing duets with himself rather than being part of an orchestra or quartet. A soulless machine made that possible. I don’t wish to come across as a Luddite but I believe that one of the things that has hastened our society’s decline has been the rise of indiscriminate social media – the ability to say anything you want anonymously and with no accountability as well as the ability to turn yourself into a Youtube or Tik-Tok star. Social media stardom (isn’t that ultimately the point of the electronic evils you describe?) has vastly fed our society’s worst narcissistic and bullying tendencies. Thank you for three poems which present much to ponder.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Brian! I agree with you about entertainment and communication technology and its role in our society’s decline. I felt the same way as you when I saw videos like the one I describe in “One-Man Duet.”

      It’s nice to hear that they “present much to ponder.”

    • Shaun C. Duncan

      I strongly agree with your last point, Brian. Plot just about any social ill you can think of from anorexia and teen suicide to porn addiction and the rise of neo-Maoism, and you’ll see it all really starts to take off in 2007 with the release of the iPhone and when Facebook lifted its age restriction for new accounts.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Yes, the world started to go downhill faster at that point, and I’m sure that’s why. These things are as addictive as street drugs even for adults; children done stand a chance unless adults do their jobs and protect them from all that.

        Instead, adults are pushing the drugs on their own children, or they’re so addicted themselves that the children want something to distract themselves from the fact that their parents are ignoring them.

        It’s as if these things have caused an epidemic of arrested development.

  6. Margaret Coats

    This is a fine grouping of poems on related topics, but each having its own attraction in a special technique. The “One-Man Duet” treats both the most complex technology and the greatest pathos. You, Josh, execute an excellent gradual crescendo (and make it more pathetic, without the desired decrescendo), by your explaining how this music is false. I’ve learned how to do vocal recording this way, and it betrays music if one singer electronically alters his or her voice to reach four or five or six voice parts in singing polyphony. The sound may be based on a human voice, but much of it, like the overall effect, is machine-produced. It can be useful to listen to for practice, but thank God the Church forbids recorded music of any kind at services.

    Like Stephen Dickey, I had trouble getting the rhythm of the the first two poems. It’s clear, especially in the ballad, if I go ahead and listen for accents. There are four per line, and they often go one-two-THREE, one-two-THREE. But in the “Lament” of only eight lines, only the last two clearly START this way. Line 1 reads as regular iambic: As I take ONE more HIT, and then hits “electronic cocaine” with no clue about what to do. My suggestion is to take special care in the first few lines of any non-iambic poem, to pound on the correct accents you are using to establish your meter. The great accomplishment of the “Lament,” however, is that each of eight lines in monorhyme contributes meaningfully to your point.

    I like the ballad best for its easy-reading narrative. As I don’t do video games, I may have missed some things, but video games are not known for great story lines, and the frightening adventure plus rescue is a classic from antiquity. I was a little confused by “we” in the next-to-last stanza, but I presume the princess is the hero’s connection to reality, and he turns off the power to the land of the dragon’s video game. This is an adventure story that seems to require a moral in those last two stanzas. You supply it with suave finesse in the adventure’s own terms!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Margaret! I’m glad you enjoyed them.

      It’s interesting to hear your experiences with that recording method; I’ve just seen videos of the finished product. I also thank God that the Church forbids recorded music at services—the musical equivalent of Buddhist prayer wheels.

      I’m glad you like the ballad. To answer your question, “we” recalls the first two stanzas, which establish that the speaker is riding back to our world in a mine cart on a railroad track with the hero (the mine cart trope has appeared in multiple games across different series). I was quite the connoisseur of Nintendo games as a boy (though, thanks to my mother’s guidance, I got in plenty of low-tech activities), so this is clearly an example of “write what you know;” I’ve since found more enjoyable activities (such as writing!), but I still remember the games well and fondly. The story was based on a dream I had shortly after becoming serious about my faith—same story, with me as the speaker, but with the hero speaking far fewer words.

      As for meter, I will be sure to take care to establish it in the first few lines, though I read the first one as “as I TAKE one more HIT…” There are some metrical irregularities, but I decided to leave them in because I liked the effect for these poems.

      Anyway, it’s nice to hear how you enjoyed them and way!

    • Margaret Coats

      Josh, you can certainly read the first line of your lament as you say, and I read it that way now that I know the meter. I’m just saying that your meter would be clear from the beginning if you had written, “I receive one more hit” (definitely anapestic) instead of “As I take one more hit” (which at first seems to correspond to our normally expected iambic). I’m not suggesting a change to your poem–just saying that we need to expect readers to try iambic meter first. To cue them in to a different meter, the more definite the clue, the better.

      Here’s an interesting thing for you to try about the music recording. On YouTube, look up “Jeffrey Ostrowski sings all voices for Ave Maria.” It’s the Ave Maria by Tomas Luis de Victoria. Jeff is a fine tenor who can sing the alto, tenor, and bass parts–and he chose an arrangement where the soprano part does not go too high for him to sing it falsetto. In other words, Jeff did this recording honestly, not using electronics to change his voice. Every note sounds as he actually sang it. But listen to the piece, and then compare it to the same Ave Maria by Victoria, sung by the Family Chorus Zozas. They have four different singers for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Their performance is far richer because each human voice has a unique array of overtones and undertones. When you hear Jeff sing four parts, you get only one quarter of the tones even though he combines his own correct notes to make it sound as if four singers are singing. Jeff is my own former choirmaster, who did this to make a practice recording for each voice in his choir, and then combined the four voices so we could hear what all the parts sound like together. The technology makes rehearsals go much faster, but the goal is a performance by multiple singers who all know what they’re doing, and are each able to contribute something artistically unique to the effect of the whole.

  7. Shaun C. Duncan

    I enjoyed all three of these Joshua and I think the role of tech in our lives is an extremely urgent topic. I have a piece of my own (which I hope to submit soon) which is more of a dour treatment of tech addiction.

    The monorhyme in the “Tech Addict’s Lament” is very effective at conveying the monotony of addiction and endless scrolling.

    I found “Ballad of the Video-Game Hero” quite poignant in a strange way. The archaic ballad form offers a nice contrast to the subject matter. The final stanza packs a nice punch, too and made me think of how the games themselves have changed. I’m of the generation who were the first to grow up with home computers in the early 80s. The games then were fun but they had limited appeal – you’d play for a bit but quickly get bored and go look for something to do outside. Now that I have kids I have to carefully police their engagement with games – not only are they far more immersive, many of them are just flat-out nihilistic and far, far removed from the kingdom your noble knight inhabits. I’ll never forget talking to one of my son’s friends who said his father – a vice-squad detective, no less – liked to play Grand Theft Auto, a game where you can set prostitutes on fire. The little boy told me his dad had forbidden him from playing the game until he was 12.

    Like Susan and Brian, “One Man Duet” is my favourite of the set. I agree with them that there is something sad about the idea of a man playing a duet with himself (particularly in the era of lockdowns) but as someone with a background in music and filmmaking, I can also say that it’s not an easy thing to pull off and this is the curious thing about technology: yes, it’s alienating but more and more people are making their own content when in previous years they’d likely be sitting in front of the TV. I’m almost tempted to think it’s a good thing, but then I remember they’re doing it for the extremely ephemeral dopamine hit they get from the few strangers and bots who “like” their post. The poem does an outstanding job of conveying this tension between humanity and technology in just 18 lines – well done!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Shaun!

      It’s interesting to hear your background in video games. I grew up playing the classic Nintendo games of the ’80s and ’90s, and pretty much lost track of them after 2000. Like you, I did plenty of other activities, but I found them more addictive as the technology advanced. I read about a 1998 study showing that the video games of the day (such as Nintendo 64) produced as much dopamine in the brain as sex… what of today’s games?

      I agree with you that the making of content isn’t always a good thing… for the digital generation, it’s been the equivalent of profuse talking.

  8. Anna J. Arredondo

    “They don’t want to be saved anymore!” Too, too true. I enjoyed your treatment of this widespread ill that needs addressing. My favorite was the ballad (for what it’s worth, I slipped right into the rhythm with no problem). I appreciate the plight of the hero, who has been stuck in a repetitive loop for years in a kind of Sisyphean quest, who ends up betrayed, aged, and empty-handed. The parallel with the players of the game (in this world) is easy to draw, and it is clear that they may suffer the same fate if they don’t break out of their addiction… And the final refrain is unsettlingly spot on. Well done.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Anna! So glad you enjoyed it!

      What an interesting analysis of the plight of video-game characters—saving the princess over and over really is a Sisyphean task. Some of those characters have been chasing the same woman since the ’80s!

      The funny thing is, I hadn’t thought of the parallel with the player; the poem was based on a dream I had shortly after becoming serious about my faith, in which the game hero represented Jesus seeing the Western world turn away from Him after centuries of devotion. But now that you mention it, I can totally see it!

  9. Paul Freeman

    As Susan commented: “Technology may well have advanced, but our spirits are withering without the company we crave as human beings.”

    I’ve just been shopping. Two separate toddlers were in pushchairs, oblivious to both parent and surroundings, tapping away on a phone-size device. Same with older kids accompanying parents – and most of the parents and other adults were no better. Alas, the art of shopping is dying under the onslaught of technology.

    You’ve hit a nerve with these poems, Joshua. Well done for highlighting one of the unsung blights of our times.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Paul! I know we’ve had our differences, but I’m glad we can find some common ground in the recognition of the evils of the twenty-first century’s drug of choice.

      What made me want to break the addiction was seeing a young mother pushing a baby in a stroller while staring at her phone rather than her baby. I thought of how different that was from my own mother, and I knew I wanted to break the addiction before having children, just as I would want to quit smoking before then if I were a smoker.

      I noticed the art of shopping dying in the early 2000s when online stores such as Amazon took over, luring us in with convenience and then putting our beloved brick-and-mortar stores out of business. Now those stores are pretty much all that’s left, and most of their merchandise is shoddy.

      Really, convenience is the underlying addiction behind technology addiction. There’s probably another poem in that somewhere…

  10. kate Farrell


    To paraphrase Thomas Berry: The “technology trance” drove
    an ill-advised dream of progress.

    “The Dream of the Earth” and “Thomas Berry, Dreamer of the Earth”
    may aid is navigating the “technological confinements” we are experiencing.

    I love your poems.

  11. Geoffrey Smagacz

    The One-Man Duet puts our narcissistic age into sad perspective. I liked having to pronounce “violin” in Italian to rhyme with machine because it evokes, as the entire poem evokes, how things used to be.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Geoffrey! For me, what puts our narcissistic age into sad perspective is the existence of such videos in the first place. All I did was describe one of them.

      I hadn’t thought of the rhyme that way; I was using a single slant rhyme in the poem to showcase the off-ness and incompatibility of it all.


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