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Graham Holliday

Man on the TV Say – covidcollage no. 1

We learn a lot from the man on the TV. He tells us a lot of things. I took this photograph of a man on the TV on 5 July, 2020. It was the same day I read in The Atlantic that “COVID-19 won’t change us forever”,

No matter how horrific the disaster, no matter how damaged our psyches, we wounded humans always bounce back. We rebuilt San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. We rebuilt Chicago after the great fire. We rebuilt Dresden, Warsaw, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. We grieve, adapt, endure, progress. And frequently we thrive. The Black Death was followed by the Renaissance. The 1918 pandemic was followed by the Roaring Twenties.

All of which seems to tie in with where I stole the title of this post from – a poem called Man on the TV Say by Patricia Smith. I hadn’t heard the poem before I made the collage. Her poem is about Hurricane Katrina and the man on the TV is the weatherman. He’s telling people to Go. Back in July, 2020—because of COVID-19—a lot of people were telling us to Go, too.

Man on the TV Say

Go. He say it simple, gray eyes straight on and watered,
he say it in that machine throat they got.
On the wall behind him, there’s a moving picture
of the sky dripping something worse than rain.
Go, he say. Pick up y’all black asses and run.
Leave your house with its splinters and pocked roof,
leave the pork chops drifting in grease and onion,
leave the whining dog, your one good watch,
that purple church hat, the mirrors.
Go. Uh-huh. Like our bodies got wheels and gas,

like at the end of that running there’s an open door
with dry and song inside. He act like we supposed
to wrap ourselves in picture frames, shadow boxes,
and bathroom rugs, then walk the freeway, racing
the water. Get on out. Can’t he see that our bodies
are just our bodies, tied to what we know?
Go. So we’ll go. Cause the man say it strong now,
mad like God pointing the way outta Paradise.
Even he got to know our favorite ritual is root,
and that none of us done ever known a horizon,
especially one that cools our dumb running,
whispering urge and constant: This way. Over here.

–Patricia Smith

I took the photograph on 5 July, 2020. I photocopied it, cut it up and stuck it onto 23cm x 23cm square, 115 lb, acid-free paper on 24 November, 2020.

Graham Holliday is an editor, writer and media trainer with twenty years experience working on editorial, educational and digital projects for the BBC and others.