Siren Test

Jon Riccio is a PhD candidate and composition instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. His work has appeared in apt, Booth, Cleaver, Hawai’i Review, Switchback, The Volta, and Waxwing, among others. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona.


Siren Test

Civil defense is flatter than I remember.
Maybe it’s my obsessive compulsive disorder
spreading to the brain’s region responsible
for perfect pitch, air drills
competing with the library scanners
that send readers on their way.

Something Germanic puts me to sleep,
Wagner in one ear, carrel reshelvers in another.
I awake a school bell installer for all Ohio.
In a truck of minutes I travel,
my brother the fire alarm inspector,
his wife, tornado warning queen.

You install a bell where it reverberates most:
in gymnasiums where the ring parries at bleachers,
transcends weight-room throats. You position it
facing natatorium medals, track its ricochet
off chlorine golds, this era’s titanium yet-to…

You link it with the P.A. system in the Vice
Principal’s office, maintain its tone somewhere
between shrill and a snow plow knowing in a few
years digital amortizes frost with a space-mellow ping.

Already, researchers have kid gloves on time;
weathermen in concert with the fire marshal
(my kin’s livelihoods whisk-broomed obsolete),
the pull-down map cleaved of its Australia when
I wake to the lanyard of a librarian decked in kitsch:

pins of Zeta Reticulans and the Human Torch.
Unknown the comic-book degrees it takes
to thermalize a UFO or warm a pot of soup,
lentils the abaci of their time.

By broth I mean beta; by claxon, stronghold.
In the restroom, a faucet consternates—
is it Luftwaffe or Clorox hoax that tests
the obsessive-compulsive?—something
alarum when the repeater’s illness
chimes the nearby cold.

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