Bus Stops

   

I.

 

I do not love myself

when I chase after the bus

in scuffed-up chucks

one size too small –

 

especially after midnight,

with a day’s pay in split tips

crimped against my chest

like a paisley pocket square.

 

Friends, forgive me my

dismissal of the upturned palms

that wait for ten lifetimes

beneath those barely heated lamps.

 

I am just like anyone else –

paranoid and in a terrible rush.

And I just want what everyone wants –

to be left alone with my headphones in,

 

unmolested by errant elbow

or overzealous conversation.

I’m not at work and I’m not at home –

this time is mine and it is precious.

          

 

II.
 

A shrink once told me

that it’s a sickness

to love and fear a thing at once.

 

But all these melancholy

strangers, so very close together,

slowly going mad

in the same cardinal direction!

 

All their eavesdroppings,

their tremoring knees!

 

In this lanyard of tragedy,

this heaving rain-stick

of swollen gums and joints.

 

In this tartarated caravan

of localized itinerants –

their motion and their stillness.

 

Of course I am afraid of them.

Of course I love them all.

 

 

III.

 

This is summer camp come roundabout, these

glacial sunrises spent waiting for the bus.

 

Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s late, sometimes

it passes me altogether, as a mudslide might a root.

 

No one goes walking so early in the day.

Not beneath this grey and salmon sky.

 

Not while street cats cuddle by the exit ramps

and corner stores are shackled in their cells.

 

It’s not like me to trust a thing this much –

to ferry my body, alive and on time,

 

To the dreamland of work, paralyzed and

in endless locomotion, selfless and indebted.

 

A little girl, unaccompanied, breathes on the glass

and traces a curly-haired stick figure in the condensation.

 

When I was her age, I sat in the back with my Gameboy.

I said cruel things I didn’t understand or mean.

 

And I pretended not to notice my mother,

eternal on the curbside, smiling and

waving and worrying to death.

 

            IV.

 

I do not love – and in fact I hate –

it when the bus starts moving

while I’m still standing

 

and I have to hook and stomp

my way from strap to strap

and rod to rod like some

courier in a sandstorm.

 

But that’s the thing about busses:

 

You’re standing still

and you’re standing still

and just like that,

you’re moving.

This poem was originally published in the Fall 2020 Issue of Beloit Poetry Journal.