Saturday, February 21, 2004


from Blessings In Disguise, Viking, 1991
by David Clewell

So small there's barely room for the phone
to ring. Each time it does someone's trying
to save me. My frustration conjures
the worst: a bus curled up on the shoulder
of a road. The ticket man is brimming
with small town sense. He tells everyone
it'll be here when it gets here.
The woman on the other end
of my ticket doesn't hear.
She tosses her hair and heads home.

He puts a hand on my shoulder, the way
he's learned to comfort strangers. Whistles
a secret in my ear: I should learn
to be more patient; he believes
reincarnation. Snow inches up to the door.
A bus horn blares for the hundredth time
in my head, and he tells me how it is:
one fifty a week for changing bulbs
and quarters. Says he has a way of knowing
he can trust me, wants me to believe with him
the sky is full of spirits
on their way to new bodies.
I tell him I'll try to. He's anxious
to go on. I see myself in the station window,
thinking of explaining all this when
I get back. The ways we see ourselves through
when a bus breaks down or a life
goes broke, and waiting is the asking
of the prayer and the answer.

If the soul never dies, then some nights
it's close. No lights for miles and the sky
full of snow. Burning in another town
is a woman who turns in her sleep, who has
no way of knowing the ticket man is talking
in circles of lives that keep on going.
That I'm running my own story up and down
my tongue until I'm sure I'll be convincing.
No way of seeing the two of us going,
our separate ways, for broke.

Reprinted with permission of the author. David Clewell is the author of several books of poems, including Blessings in Disguise which was a National Poetry Series winner; Now We're Getting Somewhere, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry; and most recently The Low End of Higher Things from the University of Wisconsin Press. He teaches writing and literature at Webster University in St. Louis.


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