January 3, 2022

Michael Spence

GLAD

I’m glad that there’s this bus: my DUIs
Mean someone else has gotta drive, surprise.

To get to work by taxi’d cost a ton.
A bike? You seen how many bikes get run

Down on these roads? And I’d need to pedal an hour
Each way, most likely during a downpour

In the freezing dark. I used to think that losers
Were the only ones who caught the bus. Like boozers

Way worse than me—the kind who can never find
Their fare. The driver oughta leave the bastards behind.

Some people tell me they ride to save on gas
And parking fees. Others are tired of the ass-

Hole NASCAR wannabes on the freeway.
I guess I’d say most of us here are okay.

One day I sat behind these two old guys—
So white, I swear, like a vampire’d sucked ’em dry.

One said all gloomy-sounding: A former duchess
Of Westminster said anyone seen in a bus

Over the age of thirty has been a failure.
The other shrugged: Let’s give it one more year.

Then they laughed like my buddies at a kegger.
The redhead came on that day—I wanted to beg her

To go out with me, the way I used to
When I got wasted. But I held off. I knew

Slow was how to take it: my last girlfriend
Dumped me because I was a weird blend

Of pushy/needy. Late that night the cop
Who stopped and breathalyzed me said: You top

My record for drunkest pull-over. Bye-bye,
License. This morning I caught the redhead’s eye—

She smiled, though she was talking on her cell,
So I can’t really be sure. What if I tell

Those old guys’ story to her? Would she laugh?
But not today: yeah, don’t give her even half

A reason to bolt. Might have a chance, you know?
Maybe she’ll get on my bus tomorrow.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Michael Spence: “I spent a hitch as a naval officer aboard an aircraft carrier then drove public-transit buses in the Seattle area for thirty years, retiring from the latter job on Valentine’s Day, 2014. I like to say that that was the biggest kiss I could give myself. I started out wanting to be a fiction writer, but one day my writing teacher read aloud Galway Kinnell’s ‘The Bear.’ When I heard that, I thought, if poetry can do this, I want to learn how to write it. I especially like poems that blend the lyrical with narrative.”

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