The Number 7 Bus

by on July 4, 2012 · 2 comments

in City Heights: Up Close & Personal, Culture

The number 7 bus is
The Tower of Babel turned on its side
The Tower of Babble with wheels
It’s articulated in the middle
For maneuvering corners
Although most of the maneuvering
Happens on the inside
& it’s not easy

The number 7 bus stops on every corner
Picks up everybody, everybody being
The passenger who searches her purse his pockets her bags
For the correct change
& comes up a quarter short
The elderly white woman struggling up the steps
Her shopping cart half -filled with her Social Security check’s munificence
Twelve rolls of generic toilet paper
Single ply

She offers to hold a baby in her lap
Oh all those kids and all those babies and baby strollers and diaper bags
More babies than any one mommy can possibly handle while standing
On a lurching bus
Kids cling to seats and are stacked on seats
They love the bell. They pull it often.
The bus stops
Often

An avalanche of menudo cans, family size, bounce down the aisle
While a scowling black man in a wheel chair is lifted up onto the bus.
Deftly dodging a menudo can, he straps himself in and shouts
What are you waiting for? Get going.

On the packed number 7 bus I can’t tell
Somalis from Sudanese
Vietnamese or Chinese
Mexican? Guatemalan?
But without turning around I know the guy talking behind me is from the
Bronx
The bus driver only speaks bus driver
And none of us understands a word he says
Over the public address system

A woman gets on with a seeing eye dog
I worry about the dog, now partially curled under her seat
In the front of the number 7 bus
I worry that someone will step on its tail or paw
That it will cry out in pain
& lose its job as a seeing eye dog

It makes me so nervous
Watching all those people getting on with babies
Getting off with all those plastic bags full of Save-U-Corn
Walking past that dog
IT MAKES ME SO NERVOUS
I GET OFF THE BUS AND WAIT
For the next number 7 bus

Filled with a flock of chattering birds
Young women on their way to school to learn English
Who pat their head scarves and arrange the bright wings of their shawls

I push past the old people in the front
Squeeze around the kids
Excuse me perdóname
Sit next to a young man who tells me
He just got out of jail
He’s looking for old friends
& a good time

I have seen snot suppurating wounds and amputated limbs
And one really pissed off guy who needed to take the bus
To buy his bus pass and he wasn’t going to pay to take a bus to buy a bus pass
He says I AM DISABLED, pulls up his shirt and shouts
I HAVE A COLOSTOMY

I have seen a colostomy
A really long knife
& a four foot boa constrictor inside of a net bag
On the number 7 bus

The number 7 bus

Swallows us up

Regurgitates us

In front of the hotels where we work… the restaurants where we work

The doctor’s office …abuela’s house …the school

Or the transfer point …where we wait

For yet another bus.

Author’s note:  I wrote this in 2002.  Some of you may not remember the large articulated buses that were in use at the time.  Buses set low to the street, sans steps,  are also a relatively new modification. 

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Anna Daniels

I left a moribund Western Pennsylvania mill town the year that Richard M. Nixon was impeached for crimes against the American people, and set off in search of truth, beauty, justice and a beat I could dance to. Here I am.
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avatar judi July 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Love it Anna. Reminds me of my frequent trips from TJ to Ensenada with the chickens, the cans, the children, the animals, etc.

avatar Shelley Plumb July 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Anna, this the most wonderful poem I’ve read in a long time. Tugs at my heartstrings.
Thank you for sharing. XXXOOO

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