Humanity as Relational, Not Mechanical: “Keep Listening”

In his poem “Keep Listening,” Clark undergraduate Mohamed Elmaola interestingly confronts the relational dynamics of daily encounters that are primarily characterized by the indifference both entities have toward each other. I say entities — as opposed to people — for several reasons: Elmaola’s speaker seems to wrestle with the lack of raw, vibrant humanity in his encounter (i.e. “No smiles where there is no joy, / […] No eyes when there is no person”; “My begging, soulless successor”). Thus, Elmaola not only explores the way in which monotonous, utilitarian relationships limit a person’s capacity to engage authentically with the people around them, but also suggests that a person’s humanity is contingent upon the way he/she recognizes and embraces another person’s humanity. Take heed to the command of the title as you explore Elmaola’s “Keep Listening.”

Keep Listening

Mohamed Ali Elmaola

I know you know the routine too.
The glass shield mechanically regresses to its hidden holster.

You give me your price.
I silently complain.

I pay you regardless.
I pay you for your pleasure-less act of passive passage.

No smiles where there is no joy,
No words when there is no time,
No eyes when there is no person.

I grunt as I lunge forward.
You sigh as you take it in.
I give.
You press.

Our hands meet for the final forgoing.
And, within a negative second,
The enchanted exchange has ended.

So that now I may go to work.
You may as well.

My family will remain eternally ignorant,
Your name will be forever forgotten
And our fleeting faces will meet no more.

There lies no love
In your purely constant and repetitive business.

Yet a sliver of naivety,
But a flicker of ephemeral faith,
Glistens in hope that you will bid
Even the slightest of farewells.
Or perhaps an extended gaze.

But alas!
These sunny sentiments are whisked and scorched,
Like peppered eggs.
And eventually faded into nonexistence,
Like a good dream,
As you transiently turn,
To the next customer,
My begging, soulless successor,
Who awaits his turn at the toll booth.

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