You’re too far gone,
and clearly unable to heed my plea –
but still I have to tell you, son:
You wouldn’t expect a key
to leave its shadow behind
when picked up off a table,
but that’s what’s happening now to you online.

Hidden interests constantly mine your data –
every moment you’re manipulated –
but just so long as your need to exist
(like everyone else now needs to exist)
is sated,
everything’s fine.

And, let’s face it, how can you stop?
It’s fame, albeit the tiniest drop –
even if there’s no-one
who could possibly give a damn
about these selfies you constantly upload
on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t you realise
that you exist no more than you did before –
less, in fact?
You’ve made a pact
with the digital devil,
not even to be an insect
preserved in amber,
but simply an insect
that’s landed on a cobweb
stretched out
directly in front
of an amber signal
on a traffic light –
and as soon as you’re lit up no-one hangs around.

You’ve allowed yourself
to get caught in a cobweb
spun by a social spider
that sucks you dry of information,
then leaves your hollowed-out exoskeletal frame
to rot on its website.

In any event, the next day,
there’s a brand new cobweb,
and once again you feel the need
to let yourself get captured.

Reality –
which, after all, is the resin of reason –
dictates that, even with your endless selfies,
your life, in the long term,
is going to be no more or less preserved
than the totally unrecorded life
of the Afghan shepherd
who, in 1971,
believing (correctly)
the camera lens to be the evil eye,
refused to allow a hapless hippy
to take his photograph.

Knowing his soul
would be sucked dry –
and that whatever he did
(whether he acquiesced or not),
the hindered hippy’s
straightened out son
would be back
for Queen and Country
in thirty years time –
the shepherd pointed the barrel of his rifle
straight at the horrified hippy’s acid-drenched head
and told him to get the fuck out of Helmand.

You’re too far gone,
and clearly unable to heed my plea –
but still I have to tell you, son:
Just because
there’s no going back to the 7th century,
it doesn’t mean
there’s nothing you can learn
from its doomed last stand
against the present one.


Thomas McColl
Illustration: Claire Palmer

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