Writer by Bus 2015: In Transit

In Transit:  Selections from the works of Melanie Almeder, 2015 Writer by Bus participant.

Riders, #1

We are ordered.
Whether we meant to
be or not, we are
the acolytes of
squares and
clocks.

We did, after all,
wake to some alarm
singing beside
the oblong of our bed;
we left our
four walls. We left

our dreams in their state
of array and disarray
to circumnavigate
this distance. To try
to arrive in time.
We would have,

if we could have,
but cannot, lift off,
wingless as we are;
we have never
walked on water
or shown up somewhere

by wishing ourselves
there—but we are a driven,
busy species. O, dear sidewalk
after sidewalk, how
we have mastered
this earth.

And, in between our bursts
of industry, we mastered waiting.
We wait the way a sky
waits. We wait the way
a street waits. We wait
with our feet;
we wait with our faces.


Riders, #2

The bus is our temporary
church. The aisle.
The minimal pews.
And we, its people.
Steeple-less. Devotees,
today, of route number 65;
we stepped up into it

to find our place. Then we faced
forward. Or away.
We habituate
to the bus’ sways,
remain mostly unfazed
by the occasional brakings;

when the stop arrives,
we head back out,
depending on the day,
into a spitting rain
or into a snow whose hems
have been blackened by exhaust;

or we step out, late day,
into the dust-spun light
and we go on
our other way,
toward work, toward the opening
doors of our homes.


God Arrived Messily Lit

(Roanoke Memorial Hospital)

I rode the wake
of morphine. So many
stuttering hands in a room—
were they the quickened schools of fish?

Hard to tell, the heart
was laboring hard.
Then they were
white birds flushed
from a roost by what
was surely coming.

Later, they settled back
into the branches
of the room’s night,
quieted. Each an illuminated
sentinel, edged in
electric light. Later still,
at the cusp of that long night,

dawn rose in its slow yellow
tide over the Blue Ridge, pooled
into the damp streets and trees
of our city. Day woke me.
It was that simple: I got up
from the bed, cured enough

to sing again into this
unrepentant in-between,
this gorgeous wide-open mouth of being.


At the Edible Museum

At last, a museum in which you could lean close to an exhibition,
rub your face on a frame edge, and, for a small fee, which she had already
paid, visit the gift shop café to eat some art. Or part of the art. Which was
all anyone–even the richest, who could afford the originals–ever achieved
during a lunch hour, anyway.

An introvert by birth, Darlene happily drifts the hallway’s white hush
into the “What Remains of the French Painters’” room. Her favorite. She
lingers alongside the quiet way the oil paintings live. It is as if they were well
fed for centuries and then time baked into an ancient fatigue. She skips the
next room, “Contemporary Art”—it had a way of screaming like a late day
playground. Trying to eat contemporary art was like trying to eat a large,
live crayfish.

She heads to the gift shop. She can only afford a slice. It would still
be a treat; even a poster piece left an aftertaste of the day the painting was
made —a whisper on the tongue of the artist’s consciousness.

And it was her birthday. She wanted to nibble at Van Gogh’s fields, to
chew through a few of those weeds from June, 1890, until she bit clear into a
clutch of poppies, the red blood beauty of them.

After awhile, she’d return, to her cubicle, to her desk, with a sense of
a day well lived, of herself as a well-purchased holiness.


Vernacular, #1: This Necessary Invocation

Because four people said, “Bless You”
when I sneezed. “Bless you”
and “bless you” and “bless you” and “bless you”
until I thought, yes, bless me.

For Nyvellya, singer/songwriter/prophetess.
who stepped aboard the bus, armful of books,
eyelashes goddesses would envy.

For the father who sat, shifted his boy
from right to left hip, licked his thumb tip
to clean the crust from his son’s eyes.

There should be a poem for the exact
mathematics of his tenderness.

For the man who named his wheelchair “Breezy.”

For the woman who cried to herself
in constant, low whines I could not translate.

For the woman behind me at the ticket counter,
who said, “do I know you?” and when I said, “no,”
shook her head: “that’s the problem with people like you.

What you think you know. What you don’t.”
Sneezing again, I agreed. She quick-educated me,
“What adds up. What don’t. Think. Then count.”


Vernacular, #2: A Found Poem

“You sick? Cold, cough, sore
throat–all that? Sounds like it.

O, Lordy. Probably got it
from someone on this bus. Melissa’s

always getting on the bus, sick—her
or Tammi. I am telling you.

Sometimes I just want to be going
straight home and tossing a bale of hay

to the yard. Yes, I do. Best cure
for the common cold is commonness.

Table Salt. Hot Water. Gargle,
then gargle. Then again. I know it takes

what it takes, day after day, I tell you
what. I have been thinking and

ninety percent of the time I just don’t care
what ______does at work. I don’t

cuss him out. I could cuss him out.
But I don’t cuss _______out. And I could

cuss. him. out. almost every day
for being late. I know it’s not easy

getting in or out of a city, though.
I know what can slow a man down,
traffic being the least of it.”

Translate »