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Tuesday, December 10, 2013


by David Chorlton

Image source: still from The End of Violence by Wim Wenders

The neighbor who wants to know everything
has a way of asking, even though
it’s none of his business. But he seems harmless
so you tell him where you’re going, why
the next house along has been empty for a week,
and put it down to friendly conversation.
You’re aware that he’s watching

you leave and come home, not that it matters
any more than being recorded
wherever you go, by a camera that sees
each withdrawal and deposit, by one
placed in the stairway where you work
and one above the swing
in the playground at the park.
Why should you care?
If you’ve done nothing wrong
there’s no need to worry.
It’s all to keep you safe,

even if safety is a state of mind
when the camera doesn’t stop
bad things from happening
but just records them when they do.
Where can you go to snuggle in peace,

let alone have a discreet affair?
How wrong is wrong enough for consequences?
The cameras never sleep. Do you? Do you know
who the four thousand in Lower Manhattan
are focused on? You get facial recognition
thrown in for no charge.
How far apart are your eyes?
How broad is your nose?
Who does the measuring?
If you need to feel secure

install your own system
with a dummy for only fifteen bucks
positioned to intimidate.
If you’ve done nothing wrong
there’s no need to worry.

China installed ten million cameras in a single year.
London has one for every thirty-two people.
Chicago has ten thousand recording
the income gap between the rich and the poor.
These cameras announce a place is safe for investment,
a nice place to shop
and buy more than you need.
Even if someone is watching, keeping count,

nobody will stop you
before you spend too much
and when the man next door asks
how much your purchase cost
you can never be sure whether he knows already.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978, and still sees his surroundings with an outsider's eye. This helps his writing projects, which include a new poetry collection,"The Devil's Sonata," from FutureCycle Press.