I have more than one friend who has made the commitment to disengage from social media and screens last thing in the evening and first thing in the morning. While I admire the impulse, I found myself unwilling to make the same commitment, but feeling vaguely uneasy about my resistance. This internal conversation followed:
Me: Well, why shouldn’t I check email or Facebook before I go to bed? They connect me to people I love!
Myself: Yeah, but they also connect us to outside currents like ads and political struggles. Or they focus us way too much on the details of certain commitments, like articles we have to write or trips we’re planning. Is that really what we want to be thinking about while heading for bed, or clearing our mind from sleep?
Me: Nothing wrong with staying current, or being focused. But yeah, it’s true, I do get easily entwined in details–work and personal–at the expense of contemplation. So maybe what I need is not less social media, but more contemplative time.
Myself: Aha! And since we’re automatically drawn to the screen with that first cup of tea, why not make the screen our portal to deeper thought?
So that’s when I put Poetry Daily on my Favorites bar. Note: I did NOT subscribe, because then I’d only access it via email and distract myself again. These days email takes a back seat to poetry.
So now, I read the day’s poem. I think about it, and I think about what it makes me think about. As I used to tell my students to do, I notice what I notice. Sometimes I like the poem, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I send it to a friend, or my mom. Sometimes the poem disturbs me. Sometimes I think about their images or themes along my whole dark, hour-long ride to work.
Today’s poem, which I read on Memorial Day, made me think of the first time I visited the Vietnam War memorial in D.C.
Memorial from a Park Bench
Here’s an opened book.
Stranger you greet like a friend
with reciprocated kiss.
Here, touch is required.
Visitors descend to meet
names arranged in order.
A word loses its ability to conjure
trapped inside a black mirror.
The names could be lines
of poems or a grocery list.
They could be just lines
but even before
you’re close enough to read
you know they are names
because everyone knows
Here is name
stacked on names stacked
on panels of more.
Here are names and black stone
and your only reflection.
The University of Arkansas Press
Each poem might not be “lovely as a tree,” but they still make me feel like this.
Here’s what I noticed especially about Brock Jones’s poem: that last line. Sometimes, in a life full of busy detail, the morning’s poem is my “only reflection.” It is starting to feel as necessary to me as that first cup of Earl Grey.