my writing, photography and the occasional handicraft

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


3 Responses to “Poem: Evening Bus Ride Sestina”

  1. Thomas Davis

    The trick of meter and rhyme is to make the lines seem as natural as if they were written without worrying about the difficulties of craft. Sense inevitably rubs against rhythm and rhyme, but the sense ought to shine anyway, lighting up the reader’s eyes with recognition from within, without, or from both. The last line achieves all the sestina form could ask a poet to achieve. This is a poem to be savored and gone over more than once. Congratulations.

    • jessicaminiermabe

      Thanks, Thomas! I love to write poems, but don’t do it as much as I should. This trimester I’m teaching Creative Writing again, and will write them with my students. They like to workshop them, and it’s a fun reminder that I can do it. This one was the result of a previous class.


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