It is often said that great art is created during troubled times, so it should come as no surprise that Barnard — well-known for its alumnae writers — has seen this trend continue as the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and a renewed focus on racial injustice and violence sweep the world. In this limited series, Barnard community members share poems and songs that speak to this unique moment in time.

Today, for the final installment of the Pandemic Poets Society, Charlotte Bingham ’65 reads three poems: “The Telephone Book,” “The Prestige of Xerox,” and “The Telephone Booth.” 


The Telephone Book 

I miss the phone book!
Weighty, solid and dense,
A temporary booster chair,
An emergency doorstop.
I miss the phone book! 
To see who lives here,
To read yellow pages,
For social needs, groups, food...
And a bonus — that tissue-thin paper, white pages or yellow, could come in handy now. I miss the phone book.


The Prestige of Xerox 

Before I knew photocopy, I knew Xerox
Like Jell-O, not gelatin; like Kleenex, not tissue.
Special training in ’62 to run the big box;
Ah, the prestige to use it, an important issue.
No more dittos or purple fingers;
Memory of its whooshing lingers.

Now, so easy, so quick, I must confess,
To have a multi-xerox, fax and printer machine.
But good to recall at 19, I was copier princess,
An acolyte of my boss, the copier queen.

Historical note: Named Haloid Xerox Company in 1958, the company introduced the 914 xerographic copier in 1959. The company waged a continuing campaign to prevent the trademark Xerox from becoming a generic term. The company changed its name to Xerox Corporation in 1961.

The Telephone Booth 

Oh, the cozy, folding-door telephone booth
An icon of my youth
Private, furtive spot in middle age
But gone, now, I am old and sage

That mobile phone, it tracks me
It knows what I see
The robocalls find me
How can I be free?

Too smart is that phone
It will not leave me alone
But I am addicted
Just as Bill Gates predicted