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Sunday, June 13, 2021


by Jen Gupta

Cartoon by Mark Knight, Kids News, May 28, 2020.

Everything was in twos this year, 
split into a before and after: 
two versions of each kid, one virtual 
forehead, pale ceiling, one real— 
three dimensional and so loud, silence 
something they saved for their homes.

At first, school had no home
lived on a bed or kitchen table, a year 
where every one was a muted silence,
a vacant square and it wasn’t until after
the panic, that we all became real,
more than a nuisance, virtually

everything changed when we were virtual,
each student tucked into a different home
life, some warm and orderly some real 
terrible, some a black and blue year
hidden under a black square and after 
it ended, they stayed silent.

Even us teachers were silent,
working nights to make virtual
every paper worksheet, after 
all, we had nothing at home,
just head down waiting for the year
to end, wishing for children more real

and then, finally, they were real,
the shattering of silence 
like September at the end of the year,
voices piercing through the virtual
nightmare, everyone happy to leave home,
to feel smiles under their masks, after

so long apart, we were sensitive. After
it ended, we couldn’t believe we had really
seen the insides of each other’s homes,
killed time in so much silence,
only known each other as virtual
in this gritty imitation of a year.

After the silence of this virtual year, 
we found home in each real moment, 
in the noise of three dimensional bliss.

Jen Gupta (she/her) is a middle school English teacher, writer, avid hiker, and horse lover. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband and their seven houseplants. Her work has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic and is forthcoming at Sledgehammer