Pandemic poem #7

As an introvert and a homebody, at first I wasn’t super distressed to work from home. But after the first week or so I realized that it’s never especially quiet at home; even before the day begins, when everyone is still asleep, the whirring of the computer, the air conditioner, the cats grooming themselves, my daughters rolling over in their beds, my dear husband’s snore, the sounds of people walking across the floor in the apartment upstairs, or walking down the stairs outside–there is at once constant noise, and constant reminding that others are near, even in the quietest times. When you are out and about all day these home noises don’t really register because they are less-loud than the outside world, but when you are closed in they become your personal symphony, a crescendo of quiet. I am used to waking up early, grading papers, reading for class, and it always seemed quiet and lovely. Initially, I thought working from home would be more of that–but it’s very different. This poem led me to the decision to completely turn off the computer some mornings, to try to rescue that sense of serene silence that offers my mind the space just to think and to plug in to my thoughts and feelings. It’s been a good decision, and I would encourage you to try it if you are also struggling for quiet time.


The Sounds of Silence

The whir of the computer, our internet connection,
has of necessity for the forseeable future replaced
the scratch of pencil on paper,
the turn of a page in a book,
as I grade and prepare for the classes I teach
before my family are up with their own business.
Everything is quiet, early in the morning,
except the keys clicking under my fingers,
and no one is awake yet to speak, interrupt. Yet,
I’m not sure this pandemic pre-dawn silence
is as silent-serene as I’d hoped it would be–
Maybe in addition to social distancing
I should turn off the computer for a while,
distance myself from the machine–
remember how it sounds to think but not type,
recall how it feels to be wholly human,
to connect without being plugged in.

(Originally written 3/26/2020)


I invite those who are also writing creatively in response to the pandemic to share their words in the comments below. I am sharing the “poem-a-day” on Instagram and Twitter, as well; follow me @mridleyelmes !


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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