Written by
Helen W. Mallon
April 2014
Written by
Helen W. Mallon
April 2014

Looking online for a poem I wrote a few years ago. I was proud of this one, but I let it disappear.  Maybe it's on an old thumb drive? It might have been published in a now-defunct online journal, so I google the only phrase that comes to mind:  "Ocean in my chest"  

I thought my phrase was pretty original, but lo!  So many people have oceans in their chests.  Soulology on tumbler was born with one.   On a site called In-a-gist, which algorithmically curates Tweets (who knew!) and re-posts them, I found: "I have an ocean in my chest. It's not calm and I like it." Words said to me today. To you: I have felt its chaos and wish to drown.

Now THAT's a Tweet.  Still, a small, half-shamed thought that my poem is floating around in cyberspace and whoever wrote that Tweet borrowed it.  Ah, hubris. Don't I wish.

Word Riot, a monthly, publishes "writing from some of the best and brightest making waves on the literary scene."  Searching the phrase didn't actually turn up oceans or chests, but I found a quirky poem called Laura Nesbit: Maybe You'll Google Your Name and See This Someday by Justin Hyde.  I thought I would help Justin out in case Laura Nesbit happens to stumble across THIS blog, a monkey's chance at writing Shakespeare, but Hey.  

Frank Ocean, a "member of the gleefully hedonistic hip-hop collective OFWGKTA" had a boulder on his chest until he came out as gay.  More power to you, Frank. Hopefully it's melted into an ocean by now.  

CHat on BillboardThen I found a poetically-written interaction on Tumblr, one that turned me on a dime.   Since these are open posts, there's no reason not to bring it to light, but it feels weird, like I'm on a crowded city block pointing my finger up at the writer who, metaphorically at least, was standing on a balcony and "thinking about the pavement, and how close it would be."  "A silly girl," in a not so silly attempt to impart hope, wrote "reading your words i feel my heart sink. there is a never-ending ocean in my chest..."  It threatened to drown her once.  She once was where he is, on that edge, but now she wishes she could "show you how beautiful the world still is..."  

I dearly hope the guy on the balcony found "Silly Girl's" words helpful.  So many of us have teetered on the edge. But wait--where social media is concerned, who is this "us"?  In this case, it's anyone with reasonable Internet access who reads English. 

What started out as a solipsistic search for my poem ends up with me as witness--voyeur?--to an intimate conversation. It feels wrong that I found it so easily, yet the conversation was offered publicly.  

The definition of privacy is changing, even without recourse to NSA shenanigans.  It makes me uncomfortable, and the porous boundaries around intimacy are troubling.  Okay, if someone's life was saved by an interaction on Tumblr, my hand-wringing is nullified. Still, "intimacy" by definition used to imply disclosure to a small, select number of people.   A tell-all memoir about suicide may be revealing, but it's not intimate.  This post had a whispered air, from the italics used to the lower case "i."  It's hard to identify the emotion evoked by the public revelation of an intimacy: embarrassment?  

Readers, what's your response to the porous nature of online intimacy?


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