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On Dances, Dares, and Dominant Diagnoses: The Sounds of Silence

Assignment Task: Supervisor Referral, Evaluation Needed. ASAP

[Student / Inmate / Colleague / Patient / Any of Us / Each of Us] Profile

- Female
- Late Teens. Twenties. Ageless.
- Reserved, Quiet
- Observations / Whole Class/Group Performance: Underperforming, Rarely Participates
- Clubs: No participation. No observed hobbies
- Coursework: Up to date. Satisfactory. Minimal effort observed

Reflection Notes: The Sounds of Silence

Tell me it’s wrong for her to turn down the dial,

switch to volume one and stream

“Let it Be” alongside “What a Wonderful World”

while others wrangle for

clockwise rotations, level eight decibels,

pop tunes and rushed lyrics,

from Rush to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”


Tell me it’s wrong for fun to flow 

and flourish in flavors as varied as the threads

that weave through the patchwork, pieced, and applique 

quilts she sews late into the night. Vibrant patterns, 

doves, daffodils, diamonds - 

crafted for communities dear to her 

yet foreign to you. 


And tell me it’s wrong for joy the flavor

of pink lemonade and blueberry crumble

to express itself in unique ways

through genres and genes

that form fingerprints that press

upon her clay handiwork. 


And that the strokes of paint

that hug the ceramic bowls potted of soil

and seeds – Forget-Me-Nots, Pinks, and Marigolds. 

Zinnia, Cosmos, and Bachelor Buttons, too – 

are not the colors of jubilation, 

contentment, and Her. 


With hundreds of thousands of flowering

species on the planet – 250,000 / 350,000 

/ more

tell me freedom 

can’t be stocked and stacked

on bookstore shelves and in quiet library

halls / with works of words 

that reach even higher tallies.


We hear you joke - in standing debriefs

held between 9 and 5 – weekly - 

and water-cooler chugs, 

of a funny form of Hell

on Earth where words are used

as tools / 

not to read

or write – in small notebooks,

hard copies, and coffee shop laptops,

but for work 

and working – of/with/out deals, barters, 

and carnival megaphones and 

wind-up teeth that chatter on command.


Just for a moment, stop winding the tiny

plastic dial. Let the dial 

rest. Cease the constant chatter. 

Then tell me it’s fine, really, 

for her to prefer pre-packaged bags of low sodium

chips, mugs of lemon tea, and Netflix

to basement parties, bottles of beer, 

gymnasium proms, and perfectly

petty conversations. For a girl

to give her all – to herself – 

and so little to you.


To prefer classic to social media, bird watching 

and binoculars to Twitter, 

and keyboard clicking – create 

and curate - to Tik Tok viewing.


Tell me it’s also fine for her to focus 

on the murmur of voices inside the tousled

curls that frame her head and warm 

her thoughts

to the echoes of your voices 

in the room outside.


Did you know that some days 

she takes the long way 

to anywhere and everywhere

simply to savor the pulsed and precious 

quiet of an empty

corridor, a silent street, an unused

and unpaved path. Where there are no footprints, 

no voices, and no signs of You.

And that she often chooses to sit alone 

at a diner counter 

to savor the sizzle of the egg on the frying

pan, the crackle of the butter, the hiss 

of the chopped steak 

and onion grease on the griddle,

and pairs of unfamiliar shoulders as sandwich

bread bookends

and first and third courses.


Tell me she shouldn’t need to crave 

conversation, cranberry

painted lips and nostrils in tissues, air damp

with syllables strung in urgency. 


Tell me she also need not race 

to create conversation, to consume 

your talk, and nod to the beat

of an unnamed notion,

yet miss the frogs croaking, 

the crickets chirping, 

the ants arranging,

the water lapping,

and the ideas that toss and tangle

in terrific tousles 

both on and of the caverns 

of her mind


The brain a muscle that pumps 

like the chambers of our heart /

its music as joyous as that of the night club 

at the corner

of Broad and Main / its music a mirror to the clink 

of the bowling ball 

that brushes, then topples pins 

in alleys that come alive under star-lit skies.


Where the line between exasperation 

and exaggeration is as thin as a razor’s edge 

and the space between flat soled shoes and thin ice,

tell me you can’t See. Hear. Smell. Touch. Feel. 

the Beauty. Power. Strength.

of her reservation.


Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, and On Habits & Habitats. . 

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