THURSDAY: Riding on the Bus


Copyright is held by the author.

Riding on the bus
some June day riding
through some steamy
down and out metropolis,
blocks and blocks of it;
dirty streets,
blasts of hot air assail us;
it’s high noon all the time
seems to be;
we passengers
slouch in the seats;
shorts and t-shirts,
halters and summer dresses,
bare arms and legs
glisten in the heat.

Next to my hairy right thigh
my groceries wilt,
forlorn in their paper bag.

He’s got the mumbles,
some guy in front of me,


Riding on the bus,
we look out;
looking for trouble
bad boys on the corner
whistling Dixie
count the hours;
faithful tenements
await the night and violence.
But for the moment
windows open, tenants at work;
nobody’s looking
for a throat to be cut.

Riding on the bus
past pale green awnings
half-shading yellow store glass
we creep along;
a girl in a white sundress,
standing, swaying,
hangs on the bus strap;
her armpits sweat
Diana’s half-moons,
twin dark crescents
down her dress.
I look and look at her;
she’s pretty and her skin,
luminous in this light,
could be very nearly
painted by Monet;
her existence
made for his brush.

Riding on the bus,
up-street, down-street,
give a glance,
watch the streetwalkers
prance, display their wares,
on the lookout
for the tricks of the trade.
Sweet Jesus, you sweaty slatterns,
we don’t care about you,
we don’t judge
what you do for a living;
go to it and good luck.

Riding on the bus
we watch other things;
the street repairs,
the chattering jackhammers,
the laborers’ rackety work,
they don’t give a hoot
who sees or hears
nor do we really care
about the life, the landscape
we pass, heedless
and numb to it all;
it’s there and not there,
bound as we always are
for someplace else.

Riding on the bus,
dim lumbering barge
by day or night,
each window waiting
for a Christ
to be framed in it,
something more than
a self-portrait of
boredom and constraint;
something more than
the breath of life all but lost
in the limbo
behind the dirty glass.

1 comment
  1. This really worked for me, Jack. I didn’t expect it to. I suspected I wouldn’t read all of it, especially since it didn’t rhyme, but you grabbed me. Your poem brought me back to my youth riding streetcars, and sometimes subways, more so than buses. Especially the sticky summer heat and yellow tinted store fronts. That was a long time ago, but you brought it back, though I never got to the slatterns part of town. Thanks.

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