james lineberger


as i got on the bus from decatur
in to atlanta
i had never written a single poem
or considered
what emily dickinson say
might have thought about all this
the morning after king was murdered
how there were only two passengers on the three-a
to peachtree
me and the woman i elected to sit next to
with all those empty seats
around us and because i smiled she had to reply
with one of her own and she couldn't
just get up and move away could she so there she sat
trapped between me and the window and god
knows what drove me to do it but
i pressed my thigh next to hers and my arm
alongside her own and i was
suddenly hard and wanting her this
tiny little blond in glasses
and she knew it and didn't scrooch away from me
just gave in to it our bodies
weaving and jouncing with the curves as the bus hurled
down scott boulevard
but we didn't speak the whole way in
just pressed against one another
fear and reticence
falling away as we acknowledged our mutual need
with that curious boldness
only strangers can manage
and when i got off the bus at spring street
i looked up to see her
watching me
until the black smoke
from the exhaust
erased what we had shared
but throughout the anguish of that terrible day
my thoughts kept drifting
from news of the assassination back to her
and when i got off from work
i deliberately missed the first two buses
until finally she arrived
out of breath
pressing a palm to her little breasts
smiling in relief it seemed to me
when she discovered me there
only this time as we settled into the same
bench seat we'd occupied
that morning she shook her head angrily muttering
to herself, saying
bastard the goddamn bastard
i can't believe it
and i took her hand holding it in both
of mine replying i know
i know but they'll catch him
they will just wait
you'll see whoever did it he can't
get away forever
and she nodded sadly staring out the window
until the bus stopped
in front of her house and she stepped down
without a glance
walking across the crab grass and up a set of painted
cement steps to where
an old woman sat in a wheelchair
clutching a little
rebel flag on a stick
waving it gleefully like a child at a parade
as the bus pulled away

Location: Hell's Half Acre, North Carolina
Email: jdline@vnet.net
Publications: Stirring, etc.

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