Getting Off the Bus

I was first on, I sat in back where the blacks

once had to, but I wanted to, and I wanted

nothing, to be nothing, black in a black hole,

less than black, softer, animal eyes in a forest

of springs and stuffing. I learned to read

by parsing out the lawless arabesques

of graffiti markers, math I got from the phone

numbers scribbled in desperation on the backs

of seats – and politics, which was just the

scrawl of promise appearing above or below

those numbers. I learned art, current events,

there is little that escapes you when you

tune your ear to the whine above the motor,

anthropology, physics. I learned biology,

worm gut, frog leg, snake eye, pig butt.


This afternoon I watched a granny

step off the bus, and as we pulled away

she drew up by some iron gates

to look back over a meager shoulder,

and what she saw was that nothing

had changed, nothing had changed

but the face of the clock, she saw a bus

in time and space, a rising stream of cars

and trucks. Like nations, near yet isolate.

I watched through burning windows,

my eyes fumed with her afterimage,

but fading, some action somewhere else,

and I turned then like a valve, hard,

away from transport, walkways, her.

Traffic was heavy. I did not trust my eyes.

BRUCE SAGER won the 2014 William Matthews Poetry Prize, selected by Billy Collins. Past awards include the Harriss Poetry Prize, with Dick Allen serving as judge, and the Artscape Literary Arts Award in poetry, chosen by William Stafford. He is the recipient of Maryland State Arts Council Awards in both fiction and poetry. His third book of poetry, The Garden of Earthly Delights, is forthcoming from Hyperborea Publishing of Ontario in late 2016.