The philosopher and the poet talk on the last warm day in fall

October 6, 2015

My neighbor scrapes old paint
from the fence around his pasture,
an annual chore he attends to,
for he knows the white he applies
revives each slat.
            I think of his recent essay,
peeling back the layers, as he said,
of online education, revealing a barren base
devoid of the body’s subtle
gestures—
               how a screen cannot replicate
confusion written on a brow,
engagement flashing in the eyes,
or a hand touching a shoulder.
How a cursor cannot translate
the voice’s inflections, nuanced
as the nod of his head, greeting me,
while he lays
                 down his tool to rub my dog’s ears,
while he motions toward the remaining wood,
tells how he’ll finish the job before winter.