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On the Bus from JFK To Manhattan
by Susan Florence
Like an elephant I board,
sweat, bump shoulders with my bags,
apologize down the aisle.
Relief, I spot a seat
next to a diminutive man
distinguished in dark suit and hat
serene at the window.
With no grace I sit, luggage on my lap
and turn to smile at him but see
in the glare of bus lights on glass
the disheveled reflection of me.
Shifting, from the embarrassment
of my entry to the anxiety
of where to get off,
I ask him about the scheduled stops.
Hearing the name of my hotel
he replies, Ah, yes, I took a course there
and found my feelings, the ones I block
and suppress, like I am doing now.
I look at him, say nothing
but my bewilderment
stares back at me in the window
and the black cityscape beyond.
I have just said good-bye to my wife.
She wanted to return to England
to be buried and her son came here
to accompany her body home.
She had been sick a long time
and sometimes I resented this
and sometimes I yelled at her.
Yes, I understand, I say to console.
He hands me the cup of his sorrow
and I drink, as gears shift at stoplights,
the night and skyscrapers pass by.
His stop nears, and he prepares to leave.
No hugs or handshakes from this gentle man
in dark suit and hat, who walks with decorum
down the aisle and descends into the street.
from A Stunning Absence