EAST BOSTON, 1996
ON THE BUS
It's one thing when you're twenty-one,
and I was way past twenty-one.
With unshaven face half concealed in the collar
of some deceased porcine philanthropist's
black cashmere rag of a coat,
I knew that I looked like a suicide
returning an overdue book to the library.
Almost everyone else did as well,
but I found no particular solace in this;
at best, the fact awakened some diverting speculations
on the comparative benefits
of waiting in front of a ditch to be shot
alone or in company
of others, and then whether one would prefer
these last hypothetical others
to be friends, family, enemies, total
or relative strangers. Would you hold hands?
Or would you rather like a good **** sapiens
monster employ them
to cover your *******?
What percentage would lose bowel control?
And given time restrictions -
and assuming some still had the ability to move -
would ostracism result? Anyway,
I knew the rules on this bus.
No eye contact: the eyes of the terrified
like you know where you're going,
possess ample change to get there,
and don't move your lips when you talk
to yourself: the destroyed
and sick, the poor, the hungry
and the disturbed estrange.
The badly dressed estrange, even,
and that is uncalled for. The degree
of one's power to estrange will increase
in direct proportion to the depth
of need for others. Do not cry.
This can only bring about, on the one hand,
an instant condition of banishment
from the sole available companionship, or
on the other, a near
fatal beating (one more disappointment).
Just follow the simple instruction
if you ever come here.
It's easy to remember - any idiot can do it.
the world has abandoned us.
This poem has haunted me, coming to mind just before sleep or right after waking. I ride the bus a lot these days, but never with alcohol and rarely at night. But Wright's poem still rides with me.