The Bus Driver
His daily presence braced like a pew. He drove
the route in a uniform he chose: heavy boots,
work shirt, jeans gone soft with wear. Aviators,
on brilliant afternoons that felt chipped from ice
and in near-dark Cleveland mornings too,
the ones that taught us a new kind of cold.
Inside the bus was mostly wet-wool warm,
though not where he sat alone, folding the door open
again and again as winter invited itself in.
For weeks, his right hand cracked until it bled.
His voice was hard, unsweet. But it was his hand that said,
here is a man not to be fucked with. On his bus
cruelties great or small found no room to crouch
among green vinyl seats, and for that as much
as for his unsung labor I was grateful, tossing
him a “thank you” when I passed. Except
one afternoon, when I stumbled down the steps,
and called, “I love you Charlie!”—then ran,
mortified the other kids had heard the slip.
But whether they hadn’t, or he shut them up,
or they felt it too, I don’t know. Nobody ever said.
And to my shame, I never spoke those words again.
Dear Fox Who Patrols Our Yard at Night
I confess, I find your staccato scream--
a woman’s wail cut short—disconcerting,
meaning: I find myself out of concert
with the soft hums and flutters of the house,
suddenly unsettled by the day’s
small triumphs over beetles and weeds.
If you’re hungry, you’re more than welcome
to the sly rabbits who undermine
the radishes and savage the parsley.
Consider too the local squirrels,
silver-sleek with last year’s acorn glut,
too jaunty, too slow to pose a challenge.
Actually, I wish you’d lap up the ants
who’ve made the lawn a hilly menace
with their unauthorized excavations,
or pick off a few songbirds, the ones
whose sharp calls needle us awake
when dawn barely dusts the arborvitae.
And yet, loud fox, circling in the dark heat,
I tend to think that hunger’s not
the engine of your punch-gut bursts,
but grim and vital fact: your life means
certain death. So if we cast a stone
to seal your jaws, dear fox, catch it
and cast it back.
About the Author: Carolyn Oliver’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Greensboro Review, Gulf Stream, Calamus Journal, Tar River Poetry, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere. A graduate of The Ohio State University and Boston University, she lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links to more of her writing can be found here.