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Page 174

What about all the sounds we understand
only as not-to-be-understood-that-way?
Car sounds, bird and insect noise, clicks, hums,
something falling somewhere, the house settling,
scrabble of, perhaps, tiny feet in the walls,
mingled voices at a party, stomps of feet
and booming basses heard from the floor below
the ballroom (the ceiling filtering out all treble) --

could these be words in languages we don't recognize
as languages (well, not "lang", since not of the tongue,
but you know what I mean -- famous last words)?
Could all our lives be blankness beneath a miasma
of non-understanding?

I don't know. That is, I don't know anything about
something I don't know can be known. Certainly
an ornithologist makes out meanings in bird chirps
that I don't hear (though poets are supposed to be
translators for the birds; most poets are just
for the birds -- a cheep shot!); the buzz of party chatter
can be broken up into voices and words; a mechanic
hears meaningful pings in what, to me, is just
car noise -- so, yes, the wall of noise around us
is telling me more than I can grasp -- telling me
with infinite patience.

Or not so patiently, as when the engine of my car
seizes up and must be replaced, because I would not
listen. But at least I suspect I am surrounded by
alien languages. The autistic child, perhaps, has cut
that link, perhaps hears the noises we call speech
as mechanical background like the air conditioning;
listening to speech, if at all, as we might listen
to distant wheezes and clunks of machinery
while waiting for an elevator. (As a child,
I thought the deep, chunky sound of a bus starting
was like chocolate cake, and that the rising whine
of the transmission --is it the transmission that whines
when a bus or truck accelerates in first gear?--
was sugary icing.)

Or perhaps the autistic child is ravished
by our chatter, as I am by the variety
of bird calls from beyond my morning window.

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