This serious night that knows only waiting
wearies the line of us bound for Fort Wayne.
It slumps the postures,
turns luggage to chairs,
and makes a bed of the floor,
where a man dressed in scrubs
has stretched his length against a wall.
Head resting on the hard-ribbed shell of a suitcase,
the man’s casual waistband has fallen low
and prompts a woman to mutter,
A lot of people these days
are comfortable with their ass.
But the ass is forgotten
when headlights flash the gate open,
and we jolt alert, tense as night lynxes
as our backs arch then straighten,
the smallest of muscles poised to hunt for a seat.
Within seconds of boarding,
we survey our chances,
calculate the odds of rejection,
and pounce on the first empty chair we see.
Claims staked and bags settled,
sixty-four strangers commit their souls
for passage through Midwestern expanses beyond,
vast curved platter that once cupped an ancient sea
now gathering and immersing us in anonymous intimacy.
Soon the last of the dark folds itself into our dreaming minds
as we slumber upright past town after town,
and the sweet cadence of a Spanish lullaby
gently counters insistent beats
that leak from pulsing headphones near the back.
Individual snores rasp out here and there,
like the first kernels to punch the popcorn bag bigger.
And far ahead in the first row,
a small rectangle burns in the gloom,
action film inflaming an insomniac screen.
Drifting in and out of wakefulness,
we nod to the rows of tall highway lamps
that follow the loose curving lines of the highway,
hypnotizing us as we hurtle past.
The lamps unfurl, curl, whip left, sway right,
creating patterns like feathers being shuffled,
the tremble of tall prairie grasses before the storm,
bluestems tossed and sown by spinning wheels of chance.
Come seven o’clock, a deep veer in the bus shakes us awake,
signaling an exit that breaks the spell of endless highway.
Soon the chiming incantations of awakened phones
ring out like singing bowls
that circle and magnify an Indiana dawn.