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