Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wisconsin 101: A poet on every bus

Last night, on my ride home, I sat in the Good Seat, which I almost always get on the way home because I am at stop #2 but don't always get on the way in because I am stop #million. The Good Seat is the one where the sun does not come into my eyes and the vent is not blowing air into my face. It took me a while to find the exact right spot on the bus, kind of like it took a while to find the perfect spot at the gym. (Away from the fans, as far as possible from the guy who goes "Wooo!")

I sat in the Good Seat and read my book (The Daughters of Mars). A man got on the bus and sat on the seat perpendicular to me about five feet away. He was in his mid 30s. A bit heavy. Bagging jeans, a windbreaker, a lanyard around his neck holding an employee ID, a dark blue backpack, a baseball hat embroidered with "Duke."

In his hands, he held a sheaf of white paper. (If I were English, I would call it "A4" paper. I have never seen an American writer refer to paper in such a way.)

I noticed he kept glancing at me and my book.

I didn't mind. I always want to know what other people are reading. Maybe it's something good that I want to read. I am always looking over shoulders to check titles.

Occasionally, he caught my eye. I smiled and returned to my book.

After about 15 minutes of this, he spoke.

"Miss," he said. "Would you read this?" He removed one of the papers from the sheaf and held it to me.

I raised my eyebrows. What was this? I thought I had seen everything on the bus - although I have not seen someone urinate on himself, as Gaylin has.

I took the paper. I read it.

It was a poem. A poem about a man who wants to be his woman's knight in shining armor - to slay a dragon for her - and to make her his queen.

I handed it back to him. "I think any woman would be very happy to get this," I said. "Isn't that what most women are looking for? A man who will treat them like a queen? Who will slay a dragon? Or at least get that drain unplugged?"

He smiled and nodded.

He handed me another one. This one was dark - about loss and heartbreak and abuse and anger.

I looked at him again. Dressed slightly gangster and a poet.

A tinkling in the distance. Was something breaking?

"Are you a reader?" I asked.

No, he told me. He got his ideas from real life. "I've been writing since I was 14," he said. "I write what I feel. I have to get the feelings out."

"But are there any poets you like to read?" I asked.

"Maya Angelou is my favorite," he said.

In the distance, as we spoke about poetry and poets on the 4:14 #57, I heard another stereotype shatter.

I don't know why he chose me. I don't know what it was about me that made him trust me to read his poems. But it made my day.


Evelynne said...

What a beautiful story. I loved this so much. I always say that you really can't tell enough about a person from their exterior (you can tell some, but not enough), and this is a lovely example of that. I'm glad he chose you. :)

John0 Juanderlust said...

Is this the same one you mentioned previously?
Maybe I dreamed it

Class factotum said...

Thank you, Evelynne!

John, I put something on facebook about it. You must have seen it there.

webb said...

I used to love riding the bus - especially home in the evenings. Getting to "know" the folks on my route, exchanging pleasantries, sometimes a real talk, or just reading and decompressing. It's such a shame that we wrap ourselves in our cars and our headphones and miss out on human interaction.

That was quite the early valentine for you.

Gaylin said...

I love the poetry on the bus story! Today it was a woman hogging 2 seats by putting her bags of take-out (which smelled like rotting seafood) on a second seat. She finally had to give up the second seat for an elderly woman using a walker.

Sigh. I want bus poetry.

Anonymous said...

This story made me tear up... very very sweet. Love that we can connect anyday anywhere if we just let ourselves. Love your writing.

Pam said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing. I hope your encouragement will bolster this young man.