On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in the European Union, reflecting universal anxiety over the erosion of privacy and individuals’ control over their identity in a digital world.

Even when boated on a drifting circle of sea,
With waves swelling toward or from every point of the compass,
Where one can spy on any far-off brig or tip of land—
Even there, the sky will spin a modest veil from descending rain.
We then spend hours unviewed by anyone who might venture upon the same latitude,
Leaving us at peace, our course unclocked,
Our ship’s clangs and shouts
Absorbed by pleats of vapors.

But no such shield descends on land,
Where we crowd the common arena.
The chatter of the ticket-holders resounds from one edge to the other,
Every syllable augmented by stone acoustics,
Jeers and cheers clattering
Across the platform.
Each actor’s gesture becomes an entire mime, each stutter a monologue—
Upstaged by manic calls and responses.

We can’t shelter in the wings,
Or erase our biographies from the playbills whisked by the breeze
Out of doorways through the streets.

No wonder people don capes, shawls, chadors, masks.
When their turn comes before the footlights,
They strut in festoons,
Florid day-glow swirls,
Layer upon layer of dissemination,
All just to make us applaud these accessories,
And hang on them our hasty pedantry.

So take a breath with me and step back—let us draw curtains across the carnival,
Put the acrobats to bed,
Retire to a candle-lit parlor behind a solid door
With copper key in an iron casement,
And quietly whisper filaments of wisdom by the arras.

Andy Oram
May 25, 2018

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