Evening Bus Ride Sestina
Henry is bored. His restless feet bounce and kick above the narrow streams of mud-thickened water rolling over the bus’s aisles in minute, running tides. The day’s commuters quickly collapse into their seats and fold themselves into exhaustion. Can you look out the window for Mommy, please, I plead with him. Obedient, he turns and tucks his feet beneath him, presses his bare hands against the cold glass above our seats. Through this dusty lens, he looks at passing lives lived without us, magnified by watery- bright squares. The TVs inside are blinking their ceaseless rhythm of blue, green, and white, like the tide. A shuttered tire store’s ceiling suspends tied rubber carcasses, like a butcher’s new pigs in his shop window. Life-size cardboard sales girls, their pale, white-gloved palms raised above their heads, beg for belated mercy as the water comes, diluting their supplicating looks. This morning beneath an ebullient sun, we looked at a farmer’s market. Purple fruit wines, necks tied with red-checked ribbons, bloomed next to glass water bottles filled with roses, and lines of jams: hymns to the ended harvest. Tonight, lit with pink lamps above, the empty lot grows only ink-blue shadows. There, two men board, weaving forward. Since one is drunk, their arms are linked. As the concerned commuters look on, his friend holds the drifting man’s arm tenderly, above his elbow, and together they rock like boats in the tide. Once settled, the drunken man’s friend comforts him. The bus rolls on, forging through the evening rain’s watered streets. Henry lists against my side and asks for water, which I do not have. The commuters offer us their smiles as I rub my son’s back, the warmth spreading from him. Before this moment, there was no way to look across to one another. Suddenly, how tightly we are tied, equally lit by the flickering fluorescent bulbs above. Mommy, Henry cries suddenly, over there! Above the dark street’s water, I see his startled reflection. We are ghosts, Mommy! I touch him, suddenly tongue-tied. In the window, Mommy, we are ghosts. Look.
© Jessica Minier Mabe