Paul reaches into his pocket,
retrieves one of many mumbles
he keeps for moments such as these,
where he is conditioned to answer,
but he wishes to tell no truth
in a street encounter
in a false-faces business district
where How you doing?
is not a question
carrying concern or interest,
but one of many things,
depending on the utterer’s passing intent,
none of which require a candid response.

Before Paul can affix the mumble to his tongue
and make some semi-intelligible sounds
the inquirer continues down the street
and strikes up a conversation with a woman,
so Paul takes the mumble off his tongue
and returns it to his pocket
where it collects flannel lint
and affixes itself to a Dentine wrapper.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

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