Rich man’s ease devolves
to boredom, then to restless
annoyance, propelling high-priced,
high-risk adventures, in places
high or low, as chance may offer
and fate may choose—the “I-only”
ego can be propelled into space
or to the depths of oceans
by the spontaneous combustion
of ones and zeroes almost infinite
to count the wealth that, while
accounted, accounts to no one.
We watch, we gaze, rapt in others’
excitement, wrapping ourselves
around screens large and small,
and when the fatal flaw pounds
failure to the tragic close, we gasp,
we clasp the horrific moment,
the terror of another’s last gasp—
sad for the dying, sadder for their loves—
but still, we gaze on, ignoring so many
who writhe coinless in hot suns craving
only a fragment of a fragment of a meal,
our attention goes elsewhere, given to screens,
and so our minds move around,
step around the thousands of bodies
daily moaning in dust, dirt-scarred
forgotten paths that lead to nowhere
but pain. We see fragments of
a rich man’s tragedy, pieces of puzzles
as to why even uncountable wealth
provides no succor against depth and death.
Our minds crowd together around
mediated images, around the echoed
narratives of the high gone low,
then just gone for good, disappeared.
We crowd, we crush our consciousness
to the point we can see, hear, feel nothing
but the forms and images propelled to us,
until we are one undulating mass
of group think drugged by desire,
crushing our thoughts, our souls,
ignoring common suffering so vast
but beyond the power theater of the few.
About the Poem
On June 18, 2023, the OceanGate submersible Titan was lost to a catastrophic implosion as it attempted to dive into the wreck of the Titanic. Experts believe that the five people on board would have perished instantly. During the following days, news stories abounded before the possible survival time ran out and the rescue became a mere search. Later, it was discovered that the craft was lost during the first hours of its descent. Much social media response has reacted to the event, some of it even ghoulishly gleeful at the death of the rich. Having read this Newsweek piece (“What Made the Titan Submersible Tragedy a National Obsession?” — I thought less about the event itself than about the public fascination with this kind of tragedy and the concomitant ignoring of so many other catastrophes impacting the lives of forgotten millions (based on estimates from the U.N., the WHO, the CDC, and other sources, over ten thousand people worldwide die preventable deaths from noncommunicable diseases, from accidents, from violence, from war, and other causes each day). I wrote the poem to explore how and why we fixate on certain specific tragedies and ignore so many others. The poem, in this context, addresses a global issue.
About the Author
Vincent Casaregola writes and publishes poetry about illness, injury, and healthcare issues, as well as about other subjects, such as gun violence. He is a member of the English faculty at Saint Louis University, where he teaches courses in American literature, film, media, and writing.