The Downtown Bus Poem By Wyatt Prunty

The Downtown Bus Poem By Wyatt Prunty

Out through the neighborhood with nothing more
Than home in mind, as the circling dog
Scuffs leaves along the curb, turns, sniffs, salutes,
Then races back then races off again,
Past Mrs. West who will not take the bus
But watches from her side yard where she waves
The passengers “good-bye” at seven-ten
And then “hello, hello” at five-fifteen,

When they unfold, walk forward, and step down,
Wait for the bus to clear, then eddy off
In twos and threes, take corners out of sight
As Mr. Probasco, who also waves,
Stands in his garden tying up the vine
That should have quit him weeks before, he says,
But keeps producing at its August best,
And the plain-faced houses lining the sidewalks
In shingled, bricked, and clapboard evidence,

And the half-bare oaks, colorful and gaunt,
As the street runs on, tunneling its limbs,
Or opening mid-block before the house
Where Wiggins sits, earmuffed in headphones,
Hunched with tuning his shortwave radio,
While next door Hooper’s son honks through his sax
So the whole scale solos down into one
Long-complaining half-flat failing middle C
Which Wiggins hears through every frequency…
World News a monotone, Hooper’s middle C,
Probasco standing halfway down his vine,
And Mrs. West, who knows its cancer, waving
The split infinitive of coming home.

Crosstown, home edges, creeps, and idles in
The evening traffic’s legislative stop;

Indoors, it haunts from room to room as though
It were the echo, smell, uneven floor
Of parents primed and dressed for dinner out;

Side yard, it is the small self in the hedge
Half hidden like a lookout or a stray
Arrested in the quiet watchfulness
By which all cars slow to the one that stops,
Opens and admits into the sealed
Particular of simply going on;

And now the downtown bus again, turning,
Slowing, braking to a door-wide rocking halt
With no one stepping off, only the driver,
Half cigarette and gravely bored,
Who checks his mirrors, elbows-in the door,
Then gazing absently, leans forward and shifts
Into the diesel’s blue-smoke rag and wheeze
Throating its pleuritic, emphysemic sax
In hoarse successive half notes down the street—
So Hooper’s middle C blends in, dissolves,
Then surfaces again, the bus rounding
A corner where its brake-lights wink from sight,
As Mrs. West now drops her wave, turns back,

Probasco watching, whistling “Hi ho,”
She charting careful headway toward her porch
Till both hands pumping one-twos up the steps
She leans into the front door and it gives
As though the entire balance of the house
Angled where she fumbles for the light.

Inside’s a speculation down one hall
Into another, then three connecting rooms
As one, two, three—three lights go on,
While up the street a gradual of yards
Filters the long, arterially fine light
Through back-stitched, overlapping twig and branch
Stripped to a half-leaf, clinging, patchwork spread
By which the many little depths of field,

The planes and verticals of home recede
Into the mild coagulum of now
Where sun and afternoon are going down
Into the brief remissions of four names—
Probasco, Hooper, Wiggins, Mrs. West,

Till even Hooper’s son gives up his sax
In time for what already’s happened next:

There was the downtown bus again, unscheduled,
Barging and bulking box-high down the street,
Ragged and loud, start-chug-stall-stop, start-stop,
Until the driver braked, climbed down, walked round,
And holding up the hood, “Flat dead,” he said,
Next turned, eased five steps off, lit up; looked back:

But then Probasco there, toolbox in hand,
And the dog tugging, barking, and wagging,
And Wiggins, Hooper, Hooper’s son, underneath, and their eight legs sprawling randomly,
Four flashlights winking up through wires and hoses,
Each elbowing tools, all handing them round,
All talking in the tribal memory
Of how things work when they no longer work.

And then some loose wire tightened, the driver
Tried the door. Locked. Tried again; then looked
Then waved the others over,
who from the curb
Saw posture perfect, large-hatted and gloved
At ease behind the wheel and eyes ahead
Like Hepburn at the apex of her art,
Mrs. West, key in hand—who starting up,

Cocked her head, listened, touched the brake, sat tall,
Shoved into gear, then staring eagles through
The bug-pocked windshield’s upright tinted glass
Accelerated hard, braked, cornered hard,
Wound the diesel tight again, circled back,

Slowing, waving, grinding gears, hitting the horn,
Block-round and waving and the horn going,
Dog barking, we five watching. Drove that way.
Drove all the late fall light from sight that way.

The Downtown Bus Poem By Wyatt Prunty

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