Jeff Walt

Bus Ride

Clanking through July heat and rush hour traffic 
on a crowded bus, wanting to be home already, maybe 
sitting on the back porch steps sipping a glass of wine, stars 
like holes gouged in a tin can—a brighter, flickering 

universe on the other side, forgetting the day I gave away 
for minimum wage.  Not sweating in this oven-on-wheels,
herded along with singing cell phones, moaning kids, 
bitching business men, shoved against strangers, like now, 

Mr. Mechanic standing so close to my seat we could be lovers. 
But I don’t want to fantasize, not today; don’t want to think 
how the stench of gasoline he reeks is what I’d wait for 
each evening, wanting his rough hands that gripped

a winch all day, the sharp calluses tenderly scraping 
my skin, the oil-stained lines of his palms pressed against 
my back.   Now the bus jerks to a stop, the driver yelling, 
“Get a life!” at cars.  Grunge Girl beside me—hair like fire, 

Army boots, a snake tattoo slithering up her neck—singing 
along with the screeching heavy metal song screaming through her 
head-set: Where do we go now, Where do we go now, where 
do we go?  As if we knew, as if the universe might hear and yell 

the answer back. Today I don’t want honking cars, the grind 
of guitars, perfumes that choke my throat, a stranger’s armpit 
swaying above my head; don’t want my usual wonderings. 
Their sadness—whatever it’s about—is mine too, but today 

I don’t want to care.  Right now, I want a cool square of quiet 
to stand in, my own calm breathing.  I want to put the brakes on 
my longing, fill my tub.   Soak in my final stop.  The world’s noise 
and people who need me wrung from my body 

like water squeezed out of a sponge.  I want to walk naked 
and damp through the few rooms that have nothing 
to say and take no interest—
the world speeding on without me. 


I live to ride in the sidecar 
next to the Caped Crusader, sinewy 
in snug Spandex, masked 

dark anonymity—fist-tight, chests puffed—ready
to jump kick alley fights—BAM! POW! ZAP!—
utility belts loaded:

spear gun, gas torch, 
missive boomerang & mini-mines.  Gotham lit 
and scraping the scum-night sky.

Testosterone-fueled and bomb-quick, we explode
to thwart each foe’s terrorist scheme 
to take over the planet.  For you, dear citizen,

we’ve hung, hands bound above boiling urns
of toxic, chemical-green broth, 
tortured, uncertain 

of escape.  We wriggle and squirm 
to loosen a pinkie finger,
always finding

the loop in a knot
and trap door for lightning 
escape.  Unsuspecting denizens, 

watch us flash past after 
each fight.  Me tucked 
in the sidecar, black-winged, 

leaning into slick, megalopolis 
curves, his silent devotion 
to clean spotless a city of sinister crime.  

You clap, toss pansies, cheer, point 
at our capes, fanned and flapping
in unison, proud as the American flag, headlong 

past sirens that come too late, toward the next 
life dangling from a smoking high-rise, worlds
more heroic than our own, alive 

to eject each criminal from his riddling mind.

Jeff Walt was born in rural Pennsylvania among a community of coal miners, brick-layers and railroad workers. His chapbook, Soot, was awarded co-winner of the Keystone Chapbook Prize and published in 2010 by Seven Kitchens Press. He’s been awarded writing residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, The Vermont Studio Center, Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, and Kalani Eco-Village Arist-in-Residence Program on the Big Island of Hawaii. His poems have appeared in journals such as Fuge, Red Wheelbarrow, Los Angeles ReviewAlligator Juniper, The Sun, Southword, Connecticut Review, Inkwell, New Millennium Writings, The Good Men Project, Harpur Palate, Americas Review, Cream City ReviewThe Ledge and Slipstream. Several poems from Soot were selected and scored by composer David Sisco and performed at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 14, 2014. His poem, “After a Fight,” was selected by Broadside Press for a professionally designed broadside collaboration that was made available as a free download in August 2016. Walt is a Regional Editor with the San Diego Poetry Annual and serves as SDPA’s coordinator for The Kowit Poetry Contest.

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