“Trailways” by Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser


What once was the Trailways depot is a sports-bar today,
and no one remembers the last coach for Grand Island 
pulling out and away, or recalls its last passenger, ghostly 
in profile at one of the windows, turning to take one last look 
at the oil-stained cement platform and the green metal bench 
where he’d waited, shoes toed in under his duffle, then from
that high window looking down upon just one more place
where he’d been. Today’s door’s the same door as always, 
all glass, and just now it’s wedged open to a cool breeze, 
this in the slow hour just after lunch, with nothing or no one 
expected until later, the schedule of Arrivals and Departures 
gone from high on the wall, replaced by a flat-screen TV, 
the attendant’s desk gone, exchanged for a long, glass-ringed 
bar, and just now the smell of beer seeping out into the street 
from the shadows, where some other ghost on a barstool
is waiting for someone to roll in from somewhere, and talking  
to whoever will listen about going somewhere better some
day, but not yet, not till the time’s really right, and for now 
just having another of whatever’s on tap, turning the stool 
a half-turn to squint into the glare from all possible worlds.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Ted Kooser: “Many years ago I published a poem about field mice moving their nests out of the way of a plow in early spring, and a woman who saw the poem wrote to me and said that she would never again pass a freshly-plowed field without thinking about those mice, and I said to myself, ‘Well, this is to be my job!’ and I have been working at it ever since.” (web)

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