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  • Writer's pictureJoseph R. Goodall

Screens, Screening, Screened

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Photo by B. Goodall


Many days are spent looking at screens

Information, plans, stories and advertisements projected onto backlit rectangles

Formatted to keep my attention, to distract, to engage

I pause looking at one screen to be absorbed by another

My gaze captured by entertaining snapshots from other people’s lives

Work reports, email threads, reminders and to-do lists

Curated news stories presenting an interpretation of current events around the globe

Treatises of what is wrong, and how to analyze and fix it in five easy steps

Narratives of suffering and joy

Pretty pictures of food, nature, human bodies, inventions, art and fashion

All vying for a space to be heard, seen, taken in, believed

How did we navigate our existence before screens?

Were we less efficient?

More present in the moment?

Were we better acquainted with our neighbor, with the stream flowing through our community?

Were we more finite and limited in our knowledge and awareness?

Perhaps we moved our bodies to dance and our hands to build, looking up at the sky or out across the ocean

Perhaps our world was larger and wilder, and we were more distracted by disease and war

Or perhaps life was not too different than it is now

We have simply found another mode of travel through it

Images move at the speed of light around me, zipping along invisible wavelengths

Filling my moments

Becoming the primary medium I use to work, communicate and play

Many days it seems screens have become the eyes I use to see the world


Photo by Martha Dominguez from Upsplash


She sits in the hospital, wishing the day was over

And yet, it would be one less day to cherish, to remember

She chides herself, having given up the ‘wish away’ thinking years ago

At the first sign of the cancer

This battle had taught her to number her days, to turn away from blissful ignorance

Some days it was a fight with herself, other days it was a partnership

To see each breath as a gift

Today is the annual screening

An anniversary, a reminder, a cruel joke

A waiting game to hear the words, “cancer free”

An opportunity to celebrate

A young boy is learning to read across the room

Cautiously sounding out syllables like a security guard sizing up a visitor

Ten minutes ago she was peeing in a cup

Being poked in the arm, losing blood

Her body inspected head to toe by a stranger

She is the book being read

Is this the beginning, middle, or end?


Photo by J. R. Goodall


The river is shallow and wide

The blue sky reflected on the dark black water

Round rocks poking out from the surface like white mushroom caps

Flanked by matted grasses and scraggly trees clinging to the arid earth

We kneel, trying to keep the cold water out of our gum boots

Letting the current run across the round sieves in our hands

Filled with mud, pebbles, detritus

The load lightening with each rush of water

Circling, shaking, inspecting

Carefully we sift, hoping to see a flash of gold

Knowing the land has been picked clean over the centuries

We try each side of the river, behind rock formations and in collection pools

The Colorado sun beating down on our necks

Other seekers have ridged sluices, metal pans, hoses and axes

We have one set of plastic screens

Winter’s light casts long shadows

We begin to shiver, slowing down our search

The river bed is preparing for the melting snow to swell its banks

We are waiting to see what a new year brings

Passing time together as we pan for gold

Not as a way to get rich

But hoping to find value nonetheless

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