I wrote the following poem on the 720 bus on the way from Westwood to downtown Los Angeles. The bus ride is a long commute – about an hour with mild traffic – and so I helped pass the time by watching the people around me.
Their little idiosyncrasies and characteristics reminded me that every single person has a story; every person I notice at a restaurant, or on a bench, or in a bus on the way to an interview – every person I happen to lock eyes with for a moment is more than a passerby; he/she is a person, a human being – just like me. They have a childhood, they have fears and desires, they have people they care deeply about. They’ve been hurt too, maybe they’ve been in love. I can really assume anything I want about them, but the reality is that I’ll never truly know what they’ve been through, what they want, or who they are. But at least I can remember them – I can make their existence tangible by turning them into a poem. So here it is; enjoy!
The woman sitting beside me
is dancing in her seat,
dancing to a tune that no one around her can hear,
snapping her fingers and swaying side to side
as if she weren’t on a bus at all, but in an open studio,
or maybe in her lover’s living room.
And across from me sits a young man about my age
who’s just finished his soda
and now as he bites the tip of his straw
he’s thinking about something probably,
but what is he thinking about?
And there’s the elderly woman
with the penciled-in eyebrows and sagging cheeks
who hasn’t looked up once from her lap;
she could be thinking about anything really,
or nothing at all.
But no matter how long I ponder
or wonder about the concerns that haunt them
or the feelings that burden them
or the ideas that shape them,
no matter how tediously I try to pull apart their
carefully woven lives from the seams,
I will never know what they’re really
I’ll probably never even know their names.
I’ll leave this bus without knowing anything more about them,
and they without knowing anything more about me.
All we really have left of one another are associations
from an absent memory
of a meaningless bus ride –
a memory that’ll be tossed into the deepest corners of our minds,
waiting to fade with the passage of time.