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  • Matthew Kelsey


Updated: Nov 20, 2023

By Matthew Kelsey

Once the children have found a seat,

have zipped or clicked

or pulled open their lunch,

and a hush falls over

the crowd, they’re free

to remove their ill-fitting

masks. For the next half hour,

no talking’s allowed. Instead,

the kids point to food

and rate it with winks, thumbs

up or down. They’ll tap or kick

a code across the long,

foldable tables, laugh

a silent laugh. Sometimes, they listen

to Jack Johnson cover songs

for Curious George, or hear

Itzhak Perlman deliver Vivaldi’s

Four Seasons, or zone out

to the sounds of a biome set

on loop. Our own room’s sounds

of nature would probably feature

a scrape, slurp, click, or crunch.

I have a hunch most people

would see in this voicelessness

sadness, would file it away

as another loss in a growing

pile of loss. But look at the smiles

as one of them draws

an invisible bow across the air,

and the whole room

shivers with joy. Witness

the roller solar shades sliding up,

the windows casting light

upon each face. Snow

tumbles down, and we point

our fingers in sudden,

unrehearsed synchronicity.


Matthew Kelsey has taught at universities, community colleges, and elementary schools for the past 13 years, and is currently an instructor for the Kenyon Review Young Writers program. His poems can be found in The American Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, and elsewhere.

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