Royal blue and pauper orange

Don’t talk.
Each word bumps me
closer to your center axis,
each sentence forecasts
some long-awaited contact,
and every paragraph heats my entrails like
electricity through overburdened copper coils.

I am increasingly vigilant
but it seems you will always be
just out-of-reach:
microns are miles,
and I still don’t know you.

So I will now defy time
and jump across this sadistically tiny chasm

to your brain. There
I will become your palette,
if but for a moment. There
I will know how it feels to be

ultraviolet and infrared:
your sempiternal extremities; and

royal blue and pauper orange:
the mutually exclusive
and desperately symbiotic castes which
cast shadows on each other; and

inchworm green to sunrise yellow,
measuring the slow and careful story of your
seasons;

and all your colors in-between
and above and below
and all the rest unseen
whose hues and values deign to show themselves.

– Jan. 3, 2001

“My tears watered my mother’s corpse.”

My tears watered my mother’s corpse. She was in her nursing home gown, the blanket pulled up to her waist. Her head was tilted to one side, her mouth open, her tongue visibly swollen as it had been in her last days. I wailed long, natural wails. Such a reaction I had not expected to rise out of me.

After a minute or two the crying and wailing subsided to sniffles. I turned around, looked about the room. I caught sight of a small placard on the shelf among her meager final belongings. It read, “Love conquers all. Virgil.” It had hung in her apartment a few years. I picked it up, placed it on my mother’s breastbone, and looked at her again.

A nurse had placed a teddy bear beside her previously. I don’t know whether my mother would have approved of such a sentimental measure. She was 70 at the time of her death. Would she have deemed it humiliating, condescending, clueless on the part of the nurse? In life my mother was a Sherman tank, at times. I chuckled at what she might like to say about her current predicament. A bringer of war has no need of a teddy bear, you moron, you imbecile. You are below me. Maybe she liked the teddy bear. But what did she care now. This tawdry arrangement of limbs, linens, child’s toy, and placard was for the mewing psychological requirements of we the living. At least she had the word “conquer” now on her chest. That would be acceptable under any circumstances.

The curtain was pulled around her nursing home bed for privacy. The effect was of a makeshift mausoleum. A pop-up tent for dead people to be humiliated beneath the gaze of their ungrateful, semi-estranged offspring. You mourn me now, vile children. Your display of grief is a lie. Where were you when I needed you? We were off avoiding you, Mom. None of us could stand you. Don’t forget who turned away whom. I’m not lying. Damn you, you wretch, you train wreck, you twisted mass of nature, I grieve you.

You blind archangel. Flaming sword of Quixotic justice. Stoker of fires for hot air balloons, crucible of my armor. I grieve you.

The wailing started up again, then subsided after another minute. I hung my head. Suddenly I felt to make sure she was actually dead. I needed to be sure. Sure enough, the skin on her hands and face was lifeless. I’d never felt a dead person before, but I could tell. I listened for breath. Nothing. I sat perfectly still and watched her chest: the placard didn’t move. I was sure now. I stood up. Watched her a minute or two longer. Snapped a morbid photo. I do not apologize for this last measure; I have only one or two of her from when she was alive. Dead Mom, living Mom — I’ll take any photo I can get.

The whole affair lasted not ten minutes. I backed away slowly. Turned.

Walked out.

What killed Twitter? Three little “innovations.”

My buddy Jim has recently noted “the death of Twitter.” A few days later, The Atlantic wrote a eulogy for Twitter.

Is Twitter dead? No, but it’s not quite alive, either. It used to feel like a yacht party. It was delightfully obnoxious, like a champagne cork hitting you in the eye. Now it feels more like the fifth or sixth day at Jesse Pinkman’s marathon house party.

Chalk it up to three little technical “innovations” designed to “improve” matters.

The Retweet Button

This was introduced when Twitter was still alive and well. Before that, you had to manually retweet with an “RT” in front of the retweeted tweet. This encouraged adding something in front of it as a response in the same tweet. Your followers could see the context of your reply that way. This in turn encouraged more lively interaction.

You can still manually retweet, but most people just hit the retweet button and call it a day. That’s more boringer.

The Favorite Button

That’s been there for a long time, but people didn’t use it as much as they do today. Part of the reason for this change is that you are now notified when someone favorites your tweet. People treat it like a Facebook “like” button. It serves the function of acknowledging that you read someone’s tweet. It fills a psychological need.

Before favorite notifications, you had to do more than just click a button to acknowledge someone; you had to actually interact with people. This forced you to come up with something to say in return, which led to more interaction.

Better Spam Reduction Procedures

I don’t know about you, but I used to get a lot more spam in my Twitter feed. My hunch is that Twitter has improved its anti-spam procedures. Spam used to be the common enemy we could all agree to hate. It was rampant. Whenever we were lost for words, we could always bitch about the spammers. This brought us all closer together in a whiny little kinship, breaking the ice for further complaining about things. It was fun to be vocally annoyed at all the spam.

Now What?

I have all but quit Facebook, but that seems to be where the party went off to. Yet Facebook feels oppressive to me somehow, and I’m trying to slowly back away from online communication altogether, to force myself to rediscover the real world in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in our time. That backing-off process may take months or years, but for now I’m using Twitter to fill the mental and emotional gap Facebook used to fill. Maybe it’s a good thing Twitter ain’t all that anymore. It’ll help me get outta here sooner.

Maybe.

Moral of the story: Sometimes innovation is just some developer’s way of justifying a paycheck. It ain’t always good for business.

Image via Paul Jackson