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Small talk in big times – a poem

Communication is one of those things which can be difficult even under the most auspicious of circumstances – particularly when it’s of the “small talk” variety. But this challenge can become especially acute in times of great distress – times such as these.

We want to support each other through these times. This is a good, natural inclination. But following this inclination is easier said than done. Simple, throwaway lines like, “Hope you’re doing well,” can’t be said when we know that person isn’t doing well. How can we ask, “How are you?” to a person we know is hurting? Even if well-intentioned, it feels cheap and dishonest. We know their pain because we share their pain. But the reality of this mutual pain seems so far beyond the scope of small talk so as to render all communication hopeless.

Since the events of 10/7, much has been weighing on my mind. One such thought has been this problem of small talk. It might not be the biggest problem, but it seems worth considering all the same.

I’m blessed to have Jewish people in my life with whom small talk is unnecessary, and the difficulties we’re facing can be expressed more bluntly. But what about those people who exist more on the periphery of our lives? The kind of person you might only bump into when picking up the mail? Or while catching the elevator at work? We care about them. We want to show our support. But the small talk trap seems a bridge too far.

With all this in mind, I imagined the following dialogue. Or is it a poem? There’s no reason why dialogue can’t be poetic, so let’s call it a dialogue-poem. After reading it, I hope people can see that making small talk in these times isn’t some hopeless venture. Rather, it’s a noble undertaking – a mitzvah. What’s more, even through small talk, the pain we’re feeling can be expressed. Although it’s not expressed so much by what’s said, as it is by what’s left unsaid.

A Spontaneous Conversation as the World Goes to Gehenna

Hey.

Oh, hey.

It’s good to see you.

It’s always good to see you.

It’s always good to hear your voice.

It does me good to hear your voice.

Stay strong.

You too.

Until next time-

When we see each other again.

About the Author
A writer from the Boston area, Matthew Goldberg is the author of an unpublished novella. His work has appeared in The Federalist and The Jewish Poetry Project Instagram page.
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