Is it fear, exhaustion, overstimulation
or just sheer exuberance
that makes the little people scream and squiggle
in their seats,
lean over, leap up,
tap each other
on the top of their heads
while the bus is jostling them along a country road
full of potholes and creeped-up asphalt?
They’re like those toy dogs with swaying necks
you see in the back of the geriatrics’ cars—
bouncing heads going
yes yes yes si si si, no no no
Yet these open eyes full of wonder gaze back
lovingly through the mirror
saying: everything is all right.
Busdriver, you can do it,
we believe in you, unquestioningly.
They drop down the stairwell
untied shoelaces flipping around
these tiny humans empty the bus
The invisible glitter of their chatter
still settling over the green vinyl seats.
|The Neuroscience of Time and Memory
A tadpole of a first-grader told me
she loves movies like “Chucky”.
We often talk as she is the last rider off the bus,
lives far away. Chuckee Cheese? I say,
not really listening, waiting for the light.
No... she says impatiently, “Chucky”, the doll.
Did you ever see it?
I think, You are too young to watch that movie.
I tell her, No, I hate horror movies.
Perhaps that was wrong of me to say
and a bit subversive, to give her ideas
that would make her fearful if she wasn’t,
which might or might not go over her head—
In reality, I had an insulated childhood
guarded by my overly-strict father.
I couldn’t interfere, or ask questions—
especially about my mother who died of cancer
before I could go to school.
So anything that upset him enraged him.
and I’d be risking his wrath
if I asked him anything.
I kept away, always afraid, always longing—
a form of self-censorship.
Not until later in my life was my bravery known to me
and with that my world burst open in slow motion.
All the colors and shapes and results of artisan craft
I had been visually deprived of I now understood.
My first-grader told me her mother had disappeared,
expressed with a familiar sadness only I could know.
I surmise the woman was reckless, or simply died
but nevertheless her child was left behind
in the care of a kind father
who came to pick up his little girl every day
with a bag of bread
for her to eat on the walk home.
Horror movies, at such an early age
imposed a tangible sense of fear I suppose—
one the little girl could deal with—
unlike the disappointment of never, ever
seeing her mother again.
|At the End of a Long Week Driving
Pacific winds stoop sentinel pines
along the narrow road off San Andreas,
a stately welcome home for the children:
three youngsters, two brothers and a sister
who leap off the packed school bus into the dust
and run to their pieced-together house,
a hodgepodge of loose siding and punky
decayed frame set in a broccoli field,
close to the state park and a wide range
of coastline with curling rows of waves below
rows of hoed vegetables and dirt.
After they’ve gone,
a sixth-grade boy with a handsome face—
another child of migrant parents—
moves to a seat near me,
watches out the window
then says as I drive the bus away,
“They’re poor. Their house is rotten.”
I say, “That’s not a very nice thing to say.”
“But its true!”
I wonder, how do I counter that?
I remember the older boy wore a silver cross.
I explain, “What matters is
I know there’s love in that household.
That’s what matters.”
He is quiet for a moment,
holding a thought in the brow of his ship
“Then why do they call it a house ‘hole’”?
The Boyz on the Bus from the Alternative High School Go Home
For them, nothing changes in the slums of Watsonville.
They expect reprimand, they expect me to react badly to
their constant innuendos of drugs and sex. They are
always tempting me away from concentrating on the
road; they are hanging out the windows, hoodies blowing
in the wind, necks stretching to see. They comment on
everything: the long hair on the girl drinking soda is
messy; Hey Vato, wha you doing? Outside the bus there’s
a very sad little man in a wheelchair, they want to yell at
him too but I scream: Don’t you dare! Get out of that
window! And they start in like banshees, until I feel my
eardrums protest from vibrations rattling around the
metal barrel vaulted ceiling above us. Enough. I take a
side road; an unusual way to get them home. A change I
prepare them for, by saying I am taking a different way
over the microphone. They quiet down, but some haven’t
been listening and remark: Hey! Where you going,
Busdriver? I drive slowly along a wide avenue—no
houses or people out here, just small businesses and the
parking lots of the light industrial. I slow in front of a
building and remark: Look here—just think! You could
get a job here! Or there, across the street! Why not go up
to the door and knock some day—these people make a lot
of money—look at the cars they drive! Whaddya think?
A great body of roaring goes up behind me, but I’m
relentless in my tour guiding: telling them to start their
own businesses here, or put on a suit and tie and try to
get a job—don’t hesitate, ask them for internships…
look, it’s all right here in your own back yard! By this
time the boys are besides themselves, some are in shock,
amazed, all are laughing, gleeful. I turn up the radio loud
to their same-old pop hustle music and they start tapping
to the beat. They thank me for the great ride when I let
them off at their stop.