Friday, March 7, 2014

Headline Poem 3/7/14 -- A bus ride through Georgia

(Photo credit Google Image)

Today, I read this headline about the dangerous roads of the deep south, particularly for cyclists. It reminded me of a bus ride many years ago...

A bus ride through Georgia

On a bus through Georgia
we drive through the night
though it is impossible to sleep
strangers, dogs, and empty flask reflections demand my attention

my military duffle bag is packed tightly underneath
my step-dad says any girl traveling by bus through the south should have one
it will make you look tough
I have never been to Vietnam and home like that bag,
stained with soil and sweat beyond its years,
looking tougher than it feels.
the bag is stacked in a pile with all the other luggage down below
I couldn't get to it if I wanted to,
and I wonder who else is trying to look tough, but doesn't have their bag to show

the woman next to me clutches her purse so tightly
it is clear she has learned from experience
tugging at it like multi-colored yarn
raveled and unraveled again and again
even I am a threat

the same man gets off the bus at every stop to check his watch and smoke a Camel cigarette
smoke ringlets leave his mouth much too smoothly
    he's hit a woman before, but says he will never do it again
    he's got God on his side now, and he has learned his lesson
my guess is he's been in jail, but I do not ask
his necklace is a gold chain from his grandfather Vincent Lee
Vincent was a bad ass from Buffalo, and I can tell he has friends in places I would never go
basement Italian dinners where big, balding men compare today's meatballs to their mothers'
Camel smoking man's mother Josephine's were the best, may she rest in peace

the south is an interesting place in the dark
tires roll over
dangerous roads like spokes
chugging along I can hear songs
and howling wind
and I see white lights and ghosts 
meanwhile the little girl behind me plays peekaboo 

a slender fellow two rows up thinks he is going to be the next big thing
he has jokes like no other, he says
he can make a dead man sing
he tells a few, and I stare at him not sure how to respond
one is about a swimming pool fiasco... too much lotion, but no punch
and the other is about jackhammers, and a bowling lawn
I smile, but am not amused

hours pass by
it feels more like days
then we stop and get off
having shared air and space,
I grab my big bag,
and go on my way