Ryan Belcher

Viaje Bien

She’s gone, when did she leave?

She was here to keep the seat full,

to keep the untrustworthy sorts away from me.

She smiled at me—but not too long—when I got on;

I could trust her kind old face.

And now she’s gone.

The cluster of high schoolers (high scholars? no, schoolers)

joke about someone’s butt too loudly;

their cackling and hooting shake the bus awake.

They are the Indian peafowl, waving their plumage

shamelessly, making too much noise.

Use auriculares

I am the ostrich in the wrong exhibit.

One of these days I will be plucked for a duster.

I shuffle around in my seat, pretending to read real estate ads and poetry.

Obliquely, I confirm the vacant seat, but I dare not stare at it.

Strange people stare at empty bus seats. Everyone else stares at strange people.

The seat shouldn’t be empty; there are so many people here.

Are they saving it for some especially cruel tormentor—

someone who will breathe on my neck,

talk about my book, punch me in the head,

ask for my name?

No acose a otros pasajeros.

An old man boards at this stop.

A younger man, lanky and swaggering, gets to the only empty seat

(Is this the one they sent?)

and lounges—sprawls broadly upon it.

Haga lo Correcto, jerk. Viaje Bien!

I shout, but no, I could never never, not here.

My shifting disturbs the woman sitting on my coat.

Get off my coat, and quit smelling like sautéed onions, please.

The old man picks his way down the aisle, pole by pole,

fingers gripping like the tendrils of a dry beanstalk.

We lurch, he stumbles,

I clench my fists in my lap.

My neck is tight, my back is sore.

My jaw clamps tighter, and another piece of molar flakes off.

(What has she been doing all day? It can’t be foodservice, so why does she smell like onions?)

A grating whisper announces the cross-streets.

I pull the cord, and the yellow line is all that’s keeping me here.

Stop the bus. Come on, come on.

Stop.

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