By Thomas Page

 

Each high school seems to have a bell,

Not a bell in the liturgical or civic sense,

A bell of copper or metal

Hung in its own tower

Visible to the people underneath it.

School bells hidden somewhere in the wall.

Hundred odd bell towers in the concrete

Like the hallways in a pyramid.

 

Each bell has its own timbre.

The one at my school would ring three times—

A soprano crescendos from piano to forte.

There would be a rest in the air before it rang.

The teachers seemed to notice it.

A moment of suspense before

Bing, bi’ing, bi’iing

 

Other schools have roars for bells

Like a mechanical bat

Soaring from a concrete cave

At random intervals of the hour.

I don’t know what animal my school bell was

Maybe a dog barking or a songbird chirping.

 

Pavlov’s bell rings bing, bi’ing, bi’iing,

A groove like a vinyl in my head,

Carved by four years of conditioning

At hour and a half intervals.

 

The last bell in May had an extra moment.

I was in a history classroom

Decorated in masks and hijabs and tapestries

Painted giraffe orange with L’Enfant’s patterns.

We all,

Shirts tattooed in marker,

Waited for the bell—

The final bing, bi’ing, bi’iing

That would end Pavlov’s experiment

 

The air changed to rapid crescendo to graduation

A world without the bells.

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