Annalisa BarronUntitled from Lifeboat Series (mixed media)

Sometimes I undress for bed only to find it unresponsive,
my pillows and quilts gone.
I reach out: (ping)
Returned: 0 packets, 0 packets.
Night after night I read to pass time
I should be sleeping.
Our servers are fallible;
the world is a web
of fine copper threads. Shut downs
sometimes last a day or a week,
without say-so
whole parts of the world blink out:
Kyle skips an electric bill, or a fish tank in Vermont
floods the Pearl Buck Museum and
our lives go down
in segments just like this: the entire series
of Babysitter’s Club paperbacks
or half New York’s boroughs
flicker and go
gone, like treads at the top of an escalator
slurp away
into the nether,
and reappear again
minutes or hours later, at the bottom.
Porter Square’s escalator spans down 143 feet,
though we need not know this to travel
deep underground. At the end of the 1500’s
an entire New World settler colony
vanished from Roanoke Island with nary a trace:
no one bothered check the host servers were surge protected.
‘Til 1910, the Atlantic Ave boardwalk rolled back
and blinked out at high tide
like clockwork, leaving the swamped hotel guests
and bathing cuties battering their eyelashes
on the beach’s mascaraed seas. In ‘05,
Katrina hacked New Orleans,
timing the city out for months.
2010, the Iska River vanished overnight.
Its server overheated (We think? We don’t know.)
but Slovenia failed to back it up. The fish,
the rest of the dried out bed
gasped at the cables, pissed!
Gills are tissue filaments
which collapse out of water,
but a fish lives or dies
like us, not to know
how its own small piece works.
I’ve lost song lyrics, impulse haircuts,
entire months of work to faulty backup
Pings go unanswered: servers throw up blinking
lights of yellow and yellow and green,
spinning sounds and hot air
but not much else.
Still, I skipped the upper level maths
and dropped out of swimming lessons.
My backups have always been sloppy.
Will we ever learn a measure of caution?
When will our lapses be a priority?
Just this December,
a nameless arctic lake perched tippy-top in the hills
of Canada’s northwestiest territory
shambled too close to the cliff’s edge
and bowled right off in its borrowed shoes.
Casting its icegray capes of permafrost aside it went
waterfalling the valley below
to drown, icy wet.
While we wandered the soggy heath
witless as clouds
with blushy cheeks, leaky wellies, and little zeroes
and ones steamed into the air.


Elizabeth O'Brien