Operating Systems

A poem by Siri Paulson

He was an apple boy
she was an android girl
living their lives side by side
orbits and orbits, never intersect
lost in the space ‘twixt the stars.

He went for coffee here,
white earbuds and logos on every table;
played on the blue side of app-based games,
drank his beer at the chosen locations,
walked the streets with his tribe.

She loved her artisan tea café,
black tablets and laptops everywhere near;
played with the reds, talked smack to the blues,
drank her artisan ciders one gastropub over.
They crossed paths outside and went their own ways.

His school taught him iOS,
hers taught her Linux; he learned to draw
and she programmed on Windows.
They never saw the same job ads; Google
showed them half the world only.

His search results, social media feeds,
the ads that followed him through his day,
pointed all to one reality. Living on the flip side,
she saw black where he saw white,
two views almost entirely unlike.

One saw hope where the other saw fear.
Change was coming too slow, or maybe too fast.
Tilt the world like a kaleidoscope, and watch the facts
fall into place; then tilt again and see them shift.
The patterns are only what you see.

The social networks where they hung out
watched where they clicked, liked, touched;
fed them more of the same, hid what didn’t match.
Their cell usage, buying patterns, where the eye lingered,
all reinforced, and looped, on repeat.

He voted one way, she the other;
everything they saw reinforced their choice.
Their music, their books, their social circles,
networks within networks, closed ecosystems.
And never the twain shall meet.

But if one day, she leaves her café,
turns left instead of right, looks up from her phone,
sees him walking towards her, coffee in hand,
ah, then their eyes might meet at last,
ah, then the world might change.

Then they might sit down,
face to face beneath the sun and sky,
then they might listen, each to the other,
but can they hear? can they learn, understand?
Can they breach the barrier together?

He is an apple boy
she is an android girl
living their lives side by side
orbits and orbits, never intersect
reaching through the space ‘twixt the stars.


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