Old Friend on a Web Page

The longer the internet goes on, the more it comes to resemble a kind of living, constant time capsule, the artefacts not deliberately buried but more lost in the constant avalanche of new pages. We might expect one day to find our own image, long removed, cached in some archive we’ve never even heard of, and one day the Internet may well be littered with references to our names long after the virtual pages survive us.

A few weeks ago I decided to trawl the net for a few names from my old University days. There was one particular person who was a very good friend of mine, fellow poet, drinker, smoker, and traveller through time. We did readings together, drank together, and after I left Swansea we stayed in touch for quite a while – but as my life took over we lost touch. It’s funny how in our memories we expect things to stay the same – when I found a reference to him, he had moved to an entirely different city and was doing the last thing I would have imagined he would be doing for a living (well maybe not the last thing, but the drabness of it seemed to reflect my own situation, where my poetic life had slowly drifted away from me through the chains of full-time work…)

Anyway, here’s the poem that came out of the feelings and memories that came out of seeing his photo and brief bio on a web page. I read this last night at my literary group, and my audience like this poem a lot – they say my new voice has a maturity my earlier poems lack. What do you think? :)

Old Friend on a Web Page

His picture opened the wormhole
Between the me of now and the me
Of yesterday, dna freezeframed,
Stirring up forgotten photons.

Like it always is the difference
Came from changes in myself
And the entropy of experience;
He was not the same of course

But I recognized the configuration
Of his face, leaner now perhaps,
The hair shorter and the eyes haunted,
A parallel version of himself.

These were intersected seconds
Between now and the years
That simply didn’t happen
In the same continuum as mine,

As if we fell through cracks in time
Or split like particles with different
Properties as we sped to our own
Alternatives and imperatives.

It is easy to believe in ghosts
When the living haunt us
And faces drift like stars from view
As lives like galaxies expand.

Are you only swirling electrons now,
Image of an absent friend projected
From a distant point in time
To ask your questions of me now?

If only the living could speak
As loud as the dead through history,
His living voice might beckon,
Tune in from the static of memory.

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