Gridlock (You Aren’t Going Anywhere)

     After a teleconference

     during which half a dozen

telefaces kept televying

for your attention, you double-click

     on your social life (okay,

social media life) and update

     your latest uploadable

moods, memes, and matters of importance,

     then send to sleep your high-speed

firewalled connection to the real world

and beeline for the elevator—

     which records you going down—

     and hoof it out the building


     (through the metal detectors,

    past the six discrete discreet

security cams glaring at you)

and into the parking garage where

     two drivers both on smart phones

back out of their reserved company

     spots and into each other,

and once you’ve nestled into your car,

     you plug in your down-and-out

iPod and when it won’t work, turn on

satellite radio and tune in

     to an all-talk station—more

     chatter that doesn’t matter,


     a crackling background blur

     that almost always soothes you,

though today it doesn’t—while you zoom

toward the gym, taking care in your post-

     workweek hurry not to run

even one of the half a dozen

     stoplights on the way (stoplight

cams would have tickets in your inbox

     before you’d finished your post-

workout shower), and once there, spandexed

and ponytailed, you lope along on

     an elliptical machine,

     one in a uniform row


     of elliptical machines

     lined up in front of a row

of televisions, all closed-captioned

and turned to different entertainment

     channels, and after a quick

rinse and a gridlocked bite in the car

     on your way home (the takeout

place on your route takes plastic, praise be),

     you arrive chez toi: a sheaf

of offers addressed to your old friend

Resident, plus some half a dozen

     more addressed to you by name

     from people and non-profits


     you’ve never heard of, the bills,

     a newspaper you don’t want

to read (although, in fact, you were just

about to opt for a digital

     subscription: your e-reader

currently bears a furring of dust)

     because God knows what’s inside,

then the sporadic, red attentions

     of your answering machine

with its half a dozen messages

blinking their collective evil eye

     (sometimes you’re like that, old-school,

     the sort that has a landline),


     and when, at last, you turn on

     your jank laptop (the webcam

light won’t turn off) to check your email,

a pop-up for a paparazzi

     candid shot that makes your spine

tighten and your ribs hitch pops up first

     and, weirdly, that’s it: you’re done.

You need to go. You open your front

     door and chuck your cell phone out

into the shrubs (good shot, good riddance),

then you unplug every appliance

     in your house like an angel

     of mercy making her rounds.


     You clatter out the back door

     and into the woods that were

one more selling point and partly why

you took out an unmanageable

     mortgage to live here. You walk

down the trail you’ve always known was there

     but down which you haven’t walked

till now. You feel it all receding

     like the studio fade on

a hit single you’ve never cared for—

goodbye banking app, goodbye burglar

     alarm, goodbye bajillion

    bit reality, goodbye.


     The woods sizzle with silence,

     shiver, crackle twiggily.

Somewhere a bird chirps much like your phone

receiving a text or your coffee

     pot when it’s hot. Then it’s there,

a bird—what, a mockingbird? magpie?—

     the likes of which you’ve never

seen (but could you name half a dozen?),

     beautiful, to be honest,

and when it lands on a branch near you

and opens wide for song, you see in

     its mouth the momentary

     glare of a camera lens.



Stephen Kampa is the author of three collections of poetry: Cracks in the Invisible (2011), Bachelor Pad (2014), and Articulate as Rain (2018). His work was included in Best American Poetry 2018. He teaches at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, FL.