Stephen Roy Watkins

It’s time now to open the window into my bedroom.

Not the one formed by a hole in the wall,
But a window on the scratched and hazy
Screen on my laptop, or perhaps my desktop,
Or maybe I’ll just say “I’m on my desktop.
Sorry, no camera today.”

No camera today,
No camera yesterday,
No camera watching me,
On behalf of the distant Professor,
Or is it Assistant Professor,
A quick Google search says
Lecturer, right.

Yes, today I’m not on camera,
So I’m not concerned about
How the lighting in my room
Makes me look like a Dark Lord of the Sith,
Trying to force choke the instructor
Before they can assign another task that,
Despite them acknowledging all the
“Extra stresses that these times have put on
All of us,” demands more of us than
We could hope to deliver within
Yet another sadistic deadline.

I’m not on camera,
So I didn’t have to wonder
“Is this the same shirt I was wearing last week?”

The pants aren’t a problem,
Because I don’t have any on,
And I’m not even plagued by the fear
That I might absentmindedly stand up,
And show the class my sack,
Packed into my briefs.

Since there’s no camera today,
I’m not worried about the
Virtual background draped behind me
Racially profiling me out of existence
When my room goes dark
As the sun sets outside my window.

The camera’s off, so there’s
No fear of being forced to fit another
Ten-minute shit in one of two
Five-minute breaks in a
Two-hour class.

The lack of a camera diffuses the
Tension of gallery view, as
I don’t have to fret over
Who may be watching me
Stare off into space,
If anyone will catch onto the fact that
I’m not looking at the screen and am in fact
Playing Mario Tennis,
Or if some psychopath in the class
Has my video pinned to their screen.

No video today,
So I’m in the kitchen making dinner
When, at long last,
The Lecturer signs off for the day.

When asked about the inspiration for this piece, Stephen said, “I approached this piece reflecting on the various façades we’re asked to create in order to participate in classes over Zoom. I find maintaining these façades without compromising academic performance to be taxing, and I wanted other people to know that they are not at all alone in some of the more generally unmentioned difficulties of distance learning in the time of COVID-19.”