663: The Evening Meeting

663: The Evening Meeting

663: The Evening Meeting


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

While so many people I know, including myself, have had a hard time over the last few years, I think the pandemic has been especially hard on the educators in my life. Whether you are an elementary school teacher like my brother, or a college professor like many of my friends, teaching through these years has been nothing short of harrowing. I remember my older brother telling me about trying to teach kindergarten in Spanish over zoom and how mind-boggling it all seemed. Not to mention the new teaching models, the new technological skill set that everyone–including the students and parents–had to learn overnight.

I remember teaching one college class over Zoom and having two students suffering from long COVID symptoms trying hard to keep their screens on and it all seemed so preposterous that we were supposed to just teach as if these conditions were quote, “normal.” And I can’t even begin to describe some of the bizarre antics and comical missteps that happened in board meetings and committee meetings. Even so, I am grateful for the virtual spaces we’ve created and the way they’ve brought us together.

Today’s poem deals with the absurdity of those virtual meetings and even more so—the way our constant need to follow protocol and stick to existing systems can turn any meeting into a modern day comedy of errors.

The Evening Meeting
by Matthew Zapruder

finally the hour has come
it is time for the long journey
I say to my wife and child a last farewell

and click the blue button
my face appears across from my face
it is the day we will virtually discuss

the unpredictable resolutions I am sure
obscurely will decide my fate
the ostensible chair begins to speak

thank you for your electrons
I hope you are well in these days
or at least surviving

I touch the hem of a book
someone says that’s a lot of togetherness
someone says the asymptote of dusk

the chair mutes us all
it’s so good to see all your faces
thank you for availing

this interstitial convocation
to consider these extraordinary times
I put on my educator mask and stare

into the unsmiling grid
trying to look as if I understand
the one named after a star

she has mastered this new technology
she shares the document of potential paths
through the forest

into uncertain autumn
we talk and wander among them
we must decide but cannot stop

a great blanket of acknowledged despair
silence threatens until the one
with all the hidden power speaks

his eyeglasses catch the light of an Akari
it is my sad role to remind you
yes there are bodies piled in the streets

but don’t forget the learning outcomes 
then the most mordant of us says
if I may quote my accountant

all solutions are suboptimal
laughter ripples through the proximate squares
for a moment we sit sensing

vital decisions
faces keep speaking
they dissolve and become

shapes on my screen
more and more they resemble
lonely ships

carrying vital protocols into the distance
the voices get further away
at last the endless meeting ends

I begin to recite
the ever more infinite list
of things I do not know

"The Evening Meeting" by Matthew Zapruder. Used by permission of the poet.