The Scientist’s Worst Nightmare: A Poem

John Henry Fuseli: The Nightmare

Captured and shackled by the Devils of Night

a tattered rag on my eyelids to cut off the light

a spear in my side, crude instructions to walk

I try to call out but I’m unable to talk

in the furrows of my forehead, sweat starts to collect

I know not where I am—or where I’ll be next

a spear in my side, crude instruction to stop

the rag is torn off, I plead enough, enough

But of course they can’t hear me

And the rays hurt my eyes

I look at clay ground and think

here’s where I die


With a cavernous mouth, And a rumbling voice

Their Leader commands me, chin up boy, play nice

Here’s what I need, and here’s what you’ll do

And you’ll do as I say, if you want to live through

These people need Truth: Science and Logic

They need substance and spirit, Not found in their markets

So go out on that stage, that we’ve set up all special

And preach the learned gospel, for they only know Devils


With that I was shoved onto a meager wooden stage

As I stumbled and stepped, the old bark creaked with age

Glancing around, I saw the most curious of sights

The land was now dark, sans a few glowing lights

television screens, maybe three, four, or five?

Illuminating the faces of the townsfolk outside

Squinting brought into focus a horror

That no words can convey

These people were corpses, their faces decayed

Sullen were their eyes and rotten was their flesh

The greyish pale skin tone, the sick smell of death

Their heads stuck in place, their minds limp and drear

the monitors placate them, shamble and shear

A spear in my side, crude instructions to talk

I try to start preaching, but my words are all wrong:

Good evening all Peoples, Of this great arid land

Indeed I’m a scientist, but I am also your friend

I’ve been brought here to tell you

About the wonders of knowing

But I’ve been brought without props

So I’ll instruct without showing

Look at the sky, see the white stars?

See that odd red one? That one’s called Mars.

And instead of a star, that ones a planet

It once looked like Earth, but now it’s barren and stranded

And we know well it’s orbit, in fact amazingly so

First tracked by a  man with the first name Tycho

Who in turn gave his plots to a genius called Kepler

And out popped equations, for knowing orbits better!


So you see, my poor people, prisoners of this place

Brothers and sisters of the dying–disgraced

Here I’ve been brought to spread the word of Light

So step forward now, those who reject the Night!

But only one did.

A young corpse, she approached with unease

Looking up with wistful eyes she asked

“Mister, won’t you please leave?

Momma and poppa and me

we all need our screens.

They make us so happy, and you sound so mean!”

My eyes locked with hers as she gazed up at me

And I woke up in terror, with hot tears on my cheeks

I sat up without breath, my eyes taut and wide

I cast off my blanket, and pulled apart the blinds

The window reflected a corpse

Looking in from outside

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