Ping Pong Pantoum, 1975

Boyfriend in the basement? Sound
the alarm of ping pong,
the game’s steady metronome
measures the absence of kissing.

Silence is the alarm—PING, PONG—

that signals my father upstairs,
measures absence, kissing
restricted by table, paddle; hit, miss;

each click a signal to my father. Upstairs

his ears keep watch. Downstairs—
restricted by table, paddle; hit, miss—
we kiss quickly, practice with free hands

the sounds for which his ears keep watch. Downstairs

in the basement: boyfriend sounds
of kissing quickly, practicing with free hands
the game’s steady metronome.

Each boyfriend in the basement sounds

my father’s safety alarm—PING, PONG—
our practiced steady metronome
measuring—absent my father—this game of kissing.
Marjorie Maddox
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