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between twenty two and twenty two-a

by Gabriel Ricard

There’s a bus that stops by here
at five a.m. every morning. It’s nothing like
the other buses that fly by here on a schedule
I still haven’t been able to figure out.

It’s older than
the bigots who are still burning crosses
behind The Church of Eight Long Nights.

That’s just one difference. The engine
sounds like a C – quality recording of every car
in Times Square being cut down by a god
who just wants things to be quiet for a while.

If I actually slept well I’m sure that bus would wake me up
every time it stops in front of my house as though
my suitcases are packed and ready to get lost
somewhere in the southwest all over again.

You’d swear someone is sitting around
and imagining I’m as stupid now as I was
when I was sixteen and could put up with any kind
of weirdness, any kind of trouble that came along
because I had seen the right movies at the right age.

I was a lot more reckless back then
and had those short stories with fourth-grade
spelling to prove it.

I can’t say if I was happier,
but I was sure as hell sleeping better.

There was no waking up seven or eight times
a night, the headache varying wildly and the mindset
entirely dependent on whether or not
I was still able to dream in a room that had suddenly
become much smaller.

Down by two or three
and up around eight or nine
with the feeling that I hadn’t slept away
anything important.

No telling what changed that,
although I probably just pushed my luck
like everyone else does.

I wasn’t very good at planning ahead.
I’m still not.

My close friends know that,
amongst other things,
but I’ve got the strangers mostly fooled.

There’s no telling what that driver or whoever’s driving it knows.
It always hangs around for a couple of minutes,
and I get a beer from the fridge. There’s really no difference
between having a drink then instead of six p.m. The music
remains the same. I still have to sit
on my front porch to smoke a cigarette and listen to the sirens
get close to my neighborhood and then just pass us by.

The dead outnumber the living,
so there’s no reason to save anyone
stupid enough to pay their rent or mortgage on time.

I drink,
smoke,
tell the dog downstairs to shut up
and wait for that bus to leave on its own terms.

It always leaves the same way. A death rattle
that should wake up the city but never does. Then it bursts into flames
and goes out of its way to disappear before it reaches the corner.

The symbolism is obvious,
but then again,
I’ve been wrong before.

It could mean anything.
It could be going anywhere.

12/06/2009

Posted on 12/07/2009
Copyright © 2022 Gabriel Ricard

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by George Hoerner on 12/07/09 at 01:32 AM

I'm not sure how you do it but you always get me into your stories and never let me go. You should know me by now. I'm the guy sitting in that chair you fall asleep in before you wake and go to bed. I'll try to find out where the bus is going tonight. I'm just not sure I'll tell you.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 12/07/09 at 02:52 AM

I could not agree more with the above comment. I love your stories.Another excellent piece- thank you!

Posted by Ava Blu on 12/07/09 at 02:26 PM

I have nothing much to add, but I love this.

Posted by Nanette Bellman on 12/10/09 at 05:33 AM

Looks like I came back here just in time. ;)

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