Yesterday, while Skyping with Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s poetry class at the University of Arizona, I was asked to read poems to a classroom of over 50 students, but the computer on their end had no camera and no speaker. I was sitting at a table in the center of PSU’s Urban Plaza, reading poems loudly into my computer without being able to see or hear anything on the other end, without knowing if anything was working, without being able to interact with anyone, without seeing anyone’s expressions or hearing anyone’s laughs. I was just reading poems into the air of the public plaza, and I had to trust that they were going somewhere. Reading poems like that was everything like what writing poems feels like.
At one point, a deaf man approached me and handed me a card that invited me to give him a few bucks. I was in the middle of reading a poem about being on an airplane shouting I love you I love you without anyone being able to hear me when this deaf man interrupted me. He didn’t know I was reading poems to a room of 50 people in Arizona–he didn’t know they were watching us. Neither one of us could hear or see anything in Arizona as everyone in Arizona could hear and see us just fine. I told him I was busy, but he couldn’t hear me. I felt dumb for doing that. He couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t hear anyone in Arizona. He pointed to the card but all I could do was say I was sorry and make a weird I’m sorry gesture that eveyone in Arizona could see, and I handed his card back to him. Then I continued to read the poem about no one being able to hear me while I could hear no one in Arizona and while the man who couldn’t hear me was walking away. There was a dead mouse a few feet away that whole time too, its skull crushed flat on the bricks. I stepped on its already dead body before any of this. I can still feel its body in my arches.