Silver Linings and Zoom in the Pandemic

I’ve never been a fan of technology; there’s dozens of poems stored away on hard drives, social media sites, and the cloud to prove it.

That’s why it was no small suprise that when the COVID-19 pandemic seized the world and essentially quarantined me on the other side of the globe, technology was the thing to liberate me.

In a figurative sense, of course. Both the pandemic and technology have dark consequences we are reminded about daily, but there has been a few consequential benefits, too.

For me, among the most significant has been the various Zoom meetings, conferences, and readings held by groups such as the S.D. Poetry Society.

Because of where I work (Saudi Arabia), my interaction with fellow English language poets has been limited. I’m not an academic. I work in a company that employs tens of thousands of engineers. And I only began writing poetry a fews years ago.

Still, thanks to technology, I have been able to find a community of welcoming poets and artists through various forums, readings, and brainstorming sessions. And while it may not have the traditional warmth of meeting in person, I’ve found participants eager to participate and comment and share. And the travel is much faster and less expensive.

I SING THE BAUD ELECTRIC

Standing still in the eye of isolation,
we come together millions of pixels
at a time, conversations stifled
only by stuttering fiber optics
that squeal and chirp and bend
our speech beneath the weight 
of a sleepless search for meaning
here in the ether.  
  
I sing the baud electric,
armies of images fantastic 
filling unsuspecting caches 
hidden from our shrinking ken,
the love of algorithm and knowledge
plucked like fruit from trees,
twisted stems righting wrongs
derived by faulty memory.

Bathed in a blanket of blue light
flickering, I call out in protocol
to brothers real and imagined
through rhymeless songs,
dirges and sonnets, ballads 
and odes wrapped in words warped
by a Hollywood Squares panel of the muted,
no smell of liquor on their breath
or faint judgment in their sighs.

I sing the lyric eclectic,
patchwork screens and open windows
reflecting off eyeglasses in dim mornings
as recitations of typewritten words
fall from trembling lips and off
bare bouncing knees obscured
by a forgiving fish-eye lens
and sturdy desk cover, a body
of armor from which to bare my soul
to shelves of dusty unread books,
a half-working wireless printer,
and 5 gigahertz of mechanical magnificence.

Bound by borders closed
to reduce the risk of infection, I am freed
by the need for men, women, and children
to look into each other eyes,
to hear another’s voice,
to speak their heart’s desire
into something other than the void,
and I crash the party with reckless abandon,
answering a call to keep living even when couched
in slight delay, half-frozen frames, and friends
with names I knew long before meeting.

By Todd Williams

To watch Todd Williams read his poem “I Sing the Baud Electric”

1 thought on “Silver Linings and Zoom in the Pandemic”

  1. Brenda K Johnson

    Congratulations, Todd, for the recognition and publication your chapbook by the South Dakota State Poetry Society.

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