Who’s Listening

In early America, neighbors eavesdropped
from other rooms, behind the shed, from a bed.

Now, the surveillance is also electronic
from devices, lovers (or friends platonic),
scammers and crooks hear what you say—
the powers-that-be, also may—

hear all. Who knows
where conversations go?

Kim is hosting dVerse, and she has asked us to use the word eavesdrop in a quadrille. My dissertation/first book was on marital discord in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Pennsylvania. Court papers and divorce depositions often included the testimony of neighbors or people living in or visiting the household. And yes, sometimes listening to a sexual encounter while lying in the same bed.

75 thoughts on “Who’s Listening

  1. Brilliantly and eloquently penned with engaging imagery. You never know who might hear what you say.

    I’m also surprised and then not surprised at this “And yes, sometimes listening to a sexual encounter while lying in the same bed” being included as a testimony.

  2. Wow, your book sounds fascinating. (I would love to read it. Is it for sale somewhere I can buy it?) and your poem reminded me of a couple of embarrassing things I’ve overheard over the years and wished I hadn’t)

  3. It is now a secret to be kept and sold. I appreciate the background information about marital discord in the 18th & 19th century. That must have been something else, listening to the sexual encounter from the same bed.

  4. Neighbor turning against neighbor and allying with the power players is evil personified, as if you can’t feel safe in your own home, where can you? I’m sure that’s how they were empowered to institutionalize so many women who got “uppity” or worse, burnt at the stake 😦

    • Thank you, yes.
      Women and women thought to be witches could definitely have suffered from people repeating gossip about them. But men suffered from scandals, too. Think of all the political scandals .

  5. This is incredibly potent, Merril! 💝 I loved learning about the history and background of marital discord in the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century. It helped me understand the context and gosh .. listening to something as private as a sexual encounter is equivalent to stealing from a neighbours backyard (if you know what I mean) 🙂

  6. You chose the perfect image to illustrate your quadrille, Merril, and such an intriguing subject to write about in your dissertation/first book. You must have had fun doing the research for it! I’m not sure what’s worse – physical or electronic eavesdropping. No wonder there is so much paranoia. Do animals behave like this?

    • Thank you very much, Kim. I did have fun with the research–not all of it, of course, but there were papers I found that got passed around the archives, and I used to share some of the stories with friends. 😀
      I don’t animals are that petty–unless it concerns food or comfort.

  7. As Ingrid notes, “electronic walls have ears.” That’s why I use private browsing for donations and such.

    Another “on point” verse, Merril.
    Some writers have admitted eavesdropping to achieve authentic dialogue. Not that I’ve ever done that – tee hee!

  8. Ah yes…..the times have changed and the sheer amount of eavesdropping has increased amazingly. Kind of frightening if you stop to think about it. Okay, I’m not stopping….:)

  9. Careful what you say….Siri is listening, Alexa is listening, Echo is listening, and who knows what your computer is picking up!!

  10. Excellent poem, Merril! Nothing is private in this day and age. Alexa, Echo, Siri, our phones, tv’s, iPads, wireless security systems —- all listening. Facebook, Google and Gmail are tracking. The means have changed, but the treacherous game of snooping remains. I’d love to read your book! What an interesting topic!

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