Performance Anxiety


xxxxxBecause we grew up fast

xxxxxAnd digital, we knew

Of nothing that we couldn’t do on camera:

xxxxSob for pop-stars, foist

xxxxOur foibles on the few

Who watched our webcams, threaten. Cyber karma

xxxxWould only last a night.

Our psyches formed one hyperlinked chimera

xxxxWe’d captured with a net.


xxxxOf course, the derriere-guard

xxxxDisputed our decisions,

Our freedoms, our unmediated selves,

xxxxScared that we might be scarred

xxxxBy all our live chat sessions

And video blogs. What web connection salves

xxxxThe wounds of loneliness?

Those two-bit links will make you technoslaves.

xxxxWe listened less and less.


xxxxWe stripped, we danced, we broke

xxxxDown. One girl cinched her neck

With a black belt and, pupils strangely dilated,

xxxxLet users watch her choke

xxxxUntil her mother’s knock

Clipped short the broadcast; we were most delighted.

xxxxDon’t treat your acts like files—

Your memories can never be deleted,

xxxxThey warned us. They were fools.


xxxxxYou’re more than programmed drives;

xxxxxTake care what you create.

They dreaded that we might do something wicked

xxxxxIn cybernetic droves—

xxxxxRage, self-destruct, run, riot—

And they were wise to worry when we clicked.

xxxxxThe plan grew bit by bit

As we kept thinking, thinking hard, and we could

xxxxxSee ourselves doing it.



Stephen Kampa is the author of three collections of poetry: Cracks in the Invisible (2011), Bachelor Pad (2014), and Articulate as Rain (2018). His work was included in Best American Poetry 2018. He teaches at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, FL.