POETRY I BY JAMES MCKEAN WE ARE THE BUS directMonteverde to San Jose but stop if someone waves or lifts a sack of onions bound for relatives. My nephew has taken your money. Your seat is numbered by the window you must open for the humid plain and close on the dust. I am your driver. I have rolled my sleeves today and my brother rides along standing clear to San Jose. His boy took your suitcase. The picture of our father, mercy and blessings on him, rides the visor. It is he who worked the fields to buy this bus and we lay our hands in blessing everyday on the wheel. We have taped in red and white every sharp corner every chrome rail so our grip will be sound all the way down the mountain’s dirt and shoulderless road. Please, relax. This road is well-traveled. It is the dry season. On each side of us there are inches to spare beside the cliff rising, the rainbow falling behind. Trucks hear us coming and stop for coffee, for we are the bus. We carry everyone’s sister home on Sunday. You have your ticket. My brother tells me when it is safe to pass on the left shoulder or the right, to flick our lights to sound the horn to say, please, slow in reverence and pull aside in prudence and raise a fist in greeting. My brother admires how I shift the plastic gear knob Virgin third to fourth and find the open lane the open field, the shoulder and the ditch, how we drop from cloud forests through sugar cane and pineapple fields into the city and its fireworks, its crowded lanes, its blind corners we turn on faith because we are expected. We have 49 seats and 75 souls and dry goods and animals and spare tires. We fill the town with exhaust. We are the bus. A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING When my mother spoke of sadness and widows, my father muttered, “Well, well;’ and shook the paper open in front of his face. Now fifty years together isn’t enough. I was wrong about her, a widow three days who will not sit in his easy chair. In their living room I wait to lift whatever she wants and then as if I were a boy again wandering at dusk I hear her voice fly across the woods to call me home. A place for everything, I thought, was what she loved. On their unmade beda torn envelope, its birthday card he must have hidden beneath his socks, signed in x’s and o’s, a boy’s hand, a boy’s gesture. Seventy tomorrow, she asks for help tonight to sort suspenders, trousers creased to their cuffs, the two-tone shirts she chose for him and washed and folded and set into a drawer. James McKean JAMES MCKEAN has published two books of poems, Headlong Tree of Heaven Headlong won a 1987 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writer Award in Poetry. Tree of Heaven won a 1994 Iowa Poetry Award. He teaches at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids. Naomi Shihab Nye. FEBRUARY 18, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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