The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Michael Spence

The Bus Driver Observes the Latest Thing


As if declaring war on gravity
The combat boots of this civilian teen
Stomp up the steps of my bus thump pause thump

He swipes his transfer at me
Like a No-Pest strip
Then lets it drop

We don’t live in the Land of Licorice and Red Vines
The blotches black and red and white
Of his camo pants do not make him blend in

Like a demon painted on a warrior’s chest
In eighty-five July degrees
His Chicago Bulls jacket is zipped

His brow’s a frozen frown as ear tubes
Drain his brain of music into the CD player
An amulet dangling around his neck

Pants loose like the skin of a starving elephant
He grabs his crotch as if to check his penis
Still attached

The pseudo-phallus of the end of his belt
Like a trunk snuffling his knees
Swings long and lewdly low

In him the coming of my bus evoked
Vibrations sympathetic so he spat
The one kind of ejaculation allowed in public

The bus I steer is the only corridor
This Minotaur can see to charge down
An aisle straight to the back’s cul de sac

Snorting he lumbers past and I recall
Ancient peoples put on skins of beasts
Fears hiding behind stolen teeth




MICHAEL SPENCE drove public-transit buses in the Seattle area for thirty years, a job he retired from on Valentine's Day, 2014. Poems of his have appeared recently in The Chariton Review, The Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, Poetry Daily, The Sewanee Review, and Tar River Poetry. New work is forthcoming in The Hudson Review and Measure. In 2014, he was awarded a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust of Washington State. His fifth book, Umbilical (St. Augustine's Press, 2016), won the 2015 New Criterion Poetry Prize. 



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