One or Several Silences in the Girls’ Room at St. John’s

Lights vibrate in the sky above my head
drop sky ceiling plastering down
and clumps of hair pulled as punishment
my god the things that teen boys do.

It’s the sound of hovering
above a nest of one-ply fanning smoke
with one hand, the sound of
one door opening and steps,
the sound of about-to-get-raped
of leave me be of really no trouble
at all except that long and empty hall.

The smoke detector silenced
by her chewed up gum. My god
the girls’ room heart and lung.

It’s caught sound, the You have no idea how bad
I need this steps again and nothing but burning paper
again a slow sound and a sound reserved
for moments right before right now and after.

I’m about to quit. I’m about
to give up. I’m about to set fire. I’m about to practice
some scales. I’m about to hit water and this time
you won’t hear my eyes shut

at the sound of unzip. It’s the sound of unclench.
It’s the sound of a fist balling. Of white
on white on white again. It’s the sound of
pulsepulse. It’s the sound of I’m sorry.
Of so you know, you’re not my girlfriend.
It’s the sound of my laugh. It’s the sound of at you
the sound of the skin on the side of your face
or this desperate laughing. I can’t hear
the sound of the other side. I can’t hear

a blues song plays that pleases no one
and the sound is something like ca-ching

or a car engine dying. The sound of a body
washed. A female body as all bodies go
just like my sister just like my sister just like my sister.
The sound of paper wrapping tobacco. The sound
of encyclopedia pages turning. The sound of
he is the encyclopedia.

Three Pantoums by Lo Kwa Mei-en

“Analog Mockingbird Pantoum”; “The Crane Wife’s Heart is Pure, The Crane Wife’s Product is Pure Pantoum”; and “Yellow Swan Pantoum”