Jonathan Greenhause

Administered to you anonymously,
the test is a method through which to ensure your survival,
          a cool voice on the tape-recording
directing you to turn off all other electronic devices,
encouraging you to breathe in deeply,
          then slowly exhale.

There’s a bottle of water in case your throat gets dry,
and there’s a canister filled with sharpened #2 pencils.
          The test will begin shortly.

The now-familiar voice instructs you to stand up
and to fire-off at-will 15 state capitals containing the letter “a”.
          You’re halfway to your objective
as the voice cuts in and asks you for both your place of birth
and the children born immediately preceding you in your maternity ward.
          Ha-has…? you stutter, …ha-ha-has the t-t-test begun yet?

There’s a pause,
then the voice sings in a language appearing to be Slavic in origin.
          “Please sing the last verse to this song,” the voice orders,
and you imitate the guttural sounds and compose a trail of gibberish.

“Please interpret the following silences,” the voice continues,
then there’s a quiet in which you only hear your own heart beating
          and the gentle whirl of an air-conditioning unit above your head.
You interpret the silence with silence.
An hour passes, then a day, a month, a year.

You’re still waiting inside the room,
a bottle of water and a bunch of worn #2 pencils spread out in front of you.
          The voice hasn’t returned, the tape-recorder’s still turning,
and cobwebs cover the entrance/exit of your testing room.