“High Noon at the Remote Corral” by Diane Thiel

Diane Thiel


A scream from the back room, which usually means the internet died,
and I come running with a hotspot, hoping to bring it back to life,
all the late risers in town now online too, maybe working, but likely
just turning on Netflix, bank-robbing our bandwidth, but this time
it’s a forty-five question test, completed on time only to be erased
by a keyboard shortcut, a lethal combination of Ctrl-P and Cancel,
while across the house, the bari sax making it clear that this homestead
is not big enough for dueling instruments, though we never realized
how far even the little flute carries in these competing classes,
and now another blue screen of death, the crashing websites not scalable
enough for this scale of new users, as the noon hour looms,
and trumpet starts having a showdown with Spanish, the parents always
asking—Are you muted?—as nearly appropriate expletives erupt,
forgetting the day of the accidental unmuting of This is so boring,
accidentally evaluating the poor teachers who are trying their best,
class chats rolling in out of sync, the whole rhythm of learning out of sync,
the house a machine for many months now, whirring in all corners,
and worrying about the system giving an F until an item is graded
(as if we needed more stress), and now the youngest moving to the porch
for P.E. and maybe some stress relief, doing line dances with no line,
it only dawning on him yesterday that this dance is usually done
with others, hence the meaning of line dance, while back inside,
another child left behind in the tunnel (or is it a collapsing mineshaft)
between the meet and the breakout room, while I try to appear
on my own screen at noon, looking calm and having it all under control,
trying to arrange as much asynchronous as possible, which thankfully
works well for these classes, since when I do unmute, there is usually
a trumpet, sax, clarinet, flute, piano, or one nearly appropriate curse
or another in the background, waving in meetings, smiling at
some heads that I am sure don’t understand—and I don’t complain
anywhere except maybe in this poem, having learned to be thankful,
always thankful that things aren’t worse, however worse they get,
in this new world where what worked yesterday might not necessarily
work tomorrow, and then one I haven’t heard before, but it seems
about right, a holler from the kitchen table announcing—I can’t see
anyone else on screen anymore, but now there are hundreds of me.

from Poets Respond
December 6, 2020


Diane Thiel: “Not much has appeared in poetry reflecting this particular type of high noon, but it is today’s reality in so many homes!” (web)


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