Cellphones are everywhere in Guatemala. You might see one peeking from the skirt of a girl in beautiful, traditional traje, on the dashboard of a bus, or in the shirt pocket of the man collecting quetzales from passengers squeezing out of an overstuffed microbus. Cellphones and texts intensify connections in a society that is already very communal. Ipods, which I only see used by young tourists from Europe and North America, sever us from the surroundings we paid so much to reach. And when we are lost in our music, what are we missing? The late poet Bill Holm wonders in this little poem, which appeals to my luddite side.
Earbud–a tiny marble sheathed in foam
to wear like an interior earring so you
can enjoy private noises wherever you go,
protected from any sudden silence.
Only check your batteries, then copy
a thousand secret songs and stories
on the tiny pod you carry in your pocket.
You are safe now from other noises made
by other people, other machines, by chance,
noises you have not chosen as your own.
To get your attention, I touch your arm
to show you the tornado or the polar bear.
Sometimes I catch you humming or talking to the air
as if to a shrunken lover waiting in your ear.
Bill Holm. Playing the Black Piano. Milkweed Editions, 2004.
Enjoy your old-fashioned ears today, and all that they bring you.
Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity