Strange Prisoners by Nicolas Potoskie


My last memory of a beach was so long ago.

Normally one might expect that I was listening to waves crashing, the disassembly of seafoam. Something motion-picturesque you’d guess.

What I remember was

the figures on the shore who sheltered under the shade of umbrellas and

clutched at little suns in their hands.

They had their own world within the world.

Their faces were painted with blue light.

bright to enough to illuminate them,

then daze them, and then blind them.


They were plugged into sockets unseen.

You could sense their attachment, feel it like static.

Of course, no indication of jolts in their eyes.

It was the oddest and scariest and loneliest reality.

So few paid notice to those

people and things next to them.

I specifically remember the lifeguards,

tanned to bronze,

up at the top of their chairs.

They were the only people whose vantage point wasn’t their phones.

Sun glinted off their glasses, and coated their smiling skin with glowing masks.

They looked around and totally loved the world they lived on.


Something I took away is some people who wander

cannot find anything new.

They can’t be surprised, satisfied, or invigorated.

They’ve visited every inch of the world

while being trapped within the rectangles of their devices.

There’s nothing for them to discover anymore.

Their expectations have crumbled under-finger-taps,

dreams swept under the rug.

You may have seen some of these strange prisoners walking past you.

I see them sit on the subway.

If I squint hard enough, disregard my tunnel vision, look at the big picture, I will see many faces washed with blue light.

What a luminous arrangement.

No one could detach themselves from light even deep underground.


Yesterday, the children put aluminum cans to their heads and listened for vibrations to echo down the strings.

Today, the children listen for vibrations in their pockets. Though media has shed its need for strings, socialization will keep some strenuously bound. Arachnid-like, they live on a web.

Tomorrow, people will have injected their technology into their body and psyche.

Adapted to it as routine.

Come to depend on it as religion.

True imagination in my opinion, is concocted inside yourself,

not sought for on the internet.

Their veins might throb and pulse without any natural direction,

pump energy like corporeal wires and adapters.

Their eyes will become just filters.

Their lips and tongues and throats will be simple respirators

that produce sounds that come just heartbeats short of songs.

Not surprisingly, we already run on batteries.

If you feel the slightest bit sad when you’re phone is drained,

then you should be alerted that you’re not absorbing enough of real life.

People tomorrow will weave a life of impermanent personas,

and repairing and replacing parts that they can’t make fit.

People tomorrow will be tangled tighter in their identity than they ever were before.

But people won’t see their personality consumed by their image.

People tomorrow will be nesting dolls that don’t see that they are their own jailers.


I like to imagine signals dashing

like little invisible olympians carrying messages and codes.

I don’t like to imagine some of the new ways people let themselves run away though.

They’ll take a gazillion selfies, capturing billions of themselves inside tiny mirrors tucked inside a million cameras.

Such tiny copies they make that don’t reflect more than one of their inner traits.

People’s portraits of themselves will outnumber the things they can know about themselves. Pictures have to try much harder to tell a thousand words now.

And all these little people in little photos are unleashed in legions on social media walls. They fight one-dimensional wars that make people seem like so much more and so much less than they are.