“Passengers” by David Colodney, 2019 Poetry Spring Contest Winner

So, mister, you ever make out on a city bus in the driving rain?
I did ONCE, at 17, riding home from high school,
kissing a friend of my sister who told my sister she liked me.
Eyes like ravens, bubblicious chewing gum-glossed lips,
she got off at my stop, lived a block over. Two teenagers kissing
on a bus full of strangers, all sitting staring forward,
transfers held in leathered hands, riding home from jobs
that left them empty. Two teenagers: the thunder outside
quaking away our inhibitions, precipitation washing away
the ugliness of a world we hadn’t yet discovered was so ugly.
At 17, the olive drab GI Joes we played with as boys are still stored
in our moms’ attics, but we’re less than a year from maybe
becoming GI Joes ourselves, sent somewhere we don’t know,
somewhere we can’t spell.
So, mister, you ever make out on a city bus in the driving rain
and never see that person again? At 17, that was ok, because promises
held the weight of circulars rolled through windshield wipers.
Today, the miles are measured in years and the broken promises
breathe like currency. I sit on a city bus folding bubblegum
into my mouth and think my own 17-year old son
may be kissing a girl on the city bus he takes home from school,
two teenagers savoring the surreal landscape of a kiss in traffic,
in downpours that rattle the windows like hip-hop.
At my stop I leave the newspaper on the seat and open
my umbrella to the clouds, hoping to beat him home, hoping to sweep
the military recruitment letters that pelt him daily like
hailstorms into the trash before he arrives.


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