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Poetic License: ‘Surviving Fame’

By Staff | Jul 9, 2019

Joe Pacheco

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

To scorn delights, and live laborious days;

“Lycidas,” by John Milton

At the end

only one of us will survive.

From every fame-hungry sidewalk of life,

eighteen of us surrender cell phones,

careers and sex drives,

give up shaving, deodorant and eyeliner,

expose bodies and minds

to programmed humiliations

for however long the series runs.

We play at castaways

on a deserted isle,

stone savages in tribal councils,

derring-do adventurers

in mock perilous landscapes

while TV cameras telecast

our survival games

to sixty million living rooms

watching in envy and safety.

Making sure we’re caught

at proper angle,

we learn to dissemble,


make alliances so dumb and crude

the bewildered wildlife

can see through them.

And all, all of it

so that one of us will survive

for the “fair guerdon”

of one-in-a-million dollars

while the rest of us are consoled

with fifteen minutes apiece

of shame and fame

as Last Night’s Loser

on Today’s Early Show.