By Teo Eve
still stillness stills, creeps
like frost across barren
streets, parks tipped empty
as by bullies begging
lunch money. all our
conversations pass through
screens, carved by chequered
lattice of confessional booths,
muffled by sliding paper
doors or art-heavy Medieval
roods; dripping religion, sequestering
stanzas, re-arranging rooms. your
face shines as daylight from stained
glass, a tapestry-shard of sharp
colour, a misty abstraction
pooling together in slow particles,
tricks of light: you. Voices echo out
a box within a room within a
box. Dimensions play, slacken.
Static staggers our speech. Time
lags. We wait. A car chokes through
the A-road artery, a fox
scatters in my back yard.
The bars’ lights’ flicker, doors
open. Like unpruned weeds or ivy
climbing up modern façades, news
papers making history of today,
life retrains: slowly, with steps
unsure, tip toeing to its inevitable
unknowable end. Until then:
the walls and screens speak,
reverse their function. I talk
not with myself, and think
aloud: therefore, I am; therefore,
Teo Eve is a writer based in Nottingham. Teo’s story ‘To Be Seen’ won Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature’s MyVoice competition, and has been published in its Speak Up! anthology.
While the poem laments the losses we have suffered in regards to daily life and normalcy, it tracks the history of the ‘screen’ from a divider and moveable wall to an enabler of conversation. While screens once blocked others from sight, now our computer screens allow communication: and while this is not perfect (internets lag; the absence of physicality is felt), the act of conversing, even through a screen, affirms our own humanity.
I wrote this piece as something of a technophobe, intimidated by the onslaught of Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings at the start of the pandemic. As these have persisted, they have become normalcy; and though I still lament lost connections or laggy conversations, I look forward to such meetings as a chance to share experiences and ideas with others.
Reading poetry has been a great solace to me during the pandemic, and I have engaged in multiple conversations online with other poets and practitioners. Despite the government’s claim that artists should retrain, the pandemic has certainly highlighted art as a starting point for conversations, whether that be poetry readings or great Netflix series, or the Banksy that appeared on Rothesay Avenue.
While art itself is not such a focal point of my poem, it is there in the periphery, reminding us of its omnipresence in our lives. Innately, poetry communicates through art, and my piece continues this conversation by offering reassurance that life may have changed, but it persists.