“Why am I up here,” wonders a poem on a bus,
“rubbing shoulders with cat-named cars
and sticks to suppress body smells?” This poem
wants to be built like a canoe, breathe
true, pungent odours—crushed ginger, forgotten
potatoes at the back of a cupboard.
As sunlight plays checkers on its face
it squints. Nagged by self-doubts, it thinks
“How can I be a voice crying in the wilderness,
up here among the fried chicken and jeans?”
It has its pride, this poem, so it squirms
when anyone reads it, emits
a sigh of relief when nobody stands near.
All night in the Central Transit garage
the poem stays awake, plotting
the day it will disguise itself as a passenger
and disembark at the edge of town.
Down the aisle another poem—eavesdropper,
explorer, suffering fools gladly—opens
its white spaces to passengers’
laughter, whispered music from headphones, all
surprise greetings and quick farewells,
kisses of chapped lips. This poem concocts
jokes about being neighbours
with tissues named after a swan, a brand of beer
featuring a great-antlered mammal’s head.
While the bus lurches, brakes, and begins
again, this poem feels most itself
when someone sitting with a box in her lap
lifts her eyes above the windows and, startled
as if by prism-divided light, reads it.