A Poem by Olivia Gatwood
Author: Poetry Editor
August 21, 2019
This week, a poem from Olivia Gatwood’s Life of the Party.
If a Girl Screams in the Middle of the Night
and no one is there to hear it
what happens to the scream?
if she is in the woods, does it shoot
from the cannon of her throat
and smack itself against a branch,
whip around it like a tetherball?
if she is face down, in the moss
does it seep into the pores?
every time a hiker passes through
days beyond her unravel
and steps along the soft, green floor
will a small howl fan out from beneath his feet?
if the girl is in the city
does the scream get lodged
in a neighbor’s ear, prevent them
from sleeping at night and so,
eventually sold to a second-hand store?
will the neighbor take it
to the buying counter
in a jewelry box and say
i don’t know who this belonged to
i just found it a burden
and, as not to startle customers,
a small label will be placed on the box
that simply says, A Scream,
and each time a person cracks it open
the girl’s rattling tongue will shake loose
into the store and this happens
for months but no one wants to buy it,
to take care of it, everyone wants to hear
it once to feel something and then go back
to their quiet homes, so the store throws it
in a dumpster out back where the garbage
truck picks it up and smashes it
beneath its hydraulic fists and the scream
will get buried in a landfill somewhere
in New Jersey, and the landfill will be
coated in grass and a child will call it
a hill, will throw her body against it
and shriek the whole way down.
OLIVIA GATWOOD is a writer, performer, and educator from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the author of the poetry collections New American Best Friend and Life of the Party, and has had her work featured in journals such as Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, and The Missouri Review. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.