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.