"Wanna hear a poem?" Her head flopped over on her neck, looking loose enough to fall off if she wasn't careful.

I shrugged, warily eyeing the grin slicing her face.

"It's called Karawane, by Hugo Ball." She coughed daintily in her fist. "Jolifanto bambla o falli bambla, grossiga m'pfa habla horem. Egiga goramen? Higo bloiko russula huju - Hollaka! Hollaka! Anlago bung!"

She paused, pressing a finger to her lips. "Uhm. It gets kind of weird, after that. And I don't have the blue cardboard tubes and witchdoctor's hat to really pull it off right." She muttered something unintelligable, then glanced at me. "Does it mean anything to you?"

"Er. What does what -"

"The poem. What's it mean to you?"

I flushed. I hadn't known I would be quizzed, afterward. "Does it mean anything?" I hazarded.

"Weeeell, it's a sound poem, so it's not s'possed to mean anything specific. But," her eyes flashed, round and wet, and she leaned in, "it's supposed to bypass language and speak directly to the soul. I mean, what're words, huh? Just sounds, nothing else. You just sort of clump 'm all together and it means something, but not necessarily what you meant it to mean when you said it."

The "speaking to the soul" bit made me feel guilty in a fuzzed-out sort of way, like I had inadvertantly cursed someone's mother in a foreign language. She blinked at me in a flat, vaguely accusing way. "Uhm," I stumbled, "I guess, sure."

She turned from me and kicked at a slick-backed fish winding lazily around her feet. The thing hissed, mildly annoyed, and whipped away.

"Do you think Santa ever gets angry, sometimes?"

The End

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