This poem came out of the April 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from natasiakith and my_partner_doug, who wanted to read about real-world scientists considered mad. (You can read about Nikola Tesla, Wilhelm Reich, Timothy Leary, and others online.) The poem was sponsored by laffingkat.
taught electricity and radio to do tricks
that were ahead of their time.
He raised the Wardenclyffe Tower
and talked about the teleforce weapon,
only to be torn down
by people who could not comprehend.
studied the subtle energies
and built machines to focus orgone
for improving physical and mental health.
The government threw him in jail
and burned his books.
learned how to reprogram the human mind
through the use of psychoactive substances,
including ways to reduce criminal recidivism
from 60% to 20%.
Richard Nixon described him as
"the most dangerous man in America."
Behind them, too, lay an infinite array
of shades flickering in the dim light of history,
Darwin and Newton and Galileo,
Hypatia in her long-lost library
and old Archimedes cackling over his cannon.
The more things change,
the more they stay the same:
Those who dance to the beat of a different drum
are thought mad by those who hear not the music.