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The Mutes

 Those groans men use
passing a woman on the street
or on the steps of the subway

to tell her she is a female
and their flesh knows it,

are they a sort of tune,
an ugly enough song, sung
by a bird with a slit tongue

but meant for music?

Or are they the muffled roaring
of deafmutes trapped in a building that is
slowly filling with smoke?

Perhaps both.
Such men most often look as if groan were all they could do, yet a woman, in spite of herself, knows it's a tribute: if she were lacking all grace they'd pass her in silence: so it's not only to say she's a warm hole.
It's a word in grief-language, nothing to do with primitive, not an ur-language; language stricken, sickened, cast down in decrepitude.
She wants to throw the tribute away, dis- gusted, and can't, it goes on buzzing in her ear, it changes the pace of her walk, the torn posters in echoing corridors spell it out, it quakes and gnashes as the train comes in.
Her pulse sullenly had picked up speed, but the cars slow down and jar to a stop while her understanding keeps on translating: 'Life after life after life goes by without poetry, without seemliness, without love.

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