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.