Honorable Mention: 2022 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest
Pretend you are waiting for a bus.
It is best to practice this
while waiting for the bus.
It’s called Method.
While waiting for the bus,
check your wrist as if
you had a watch on.
Gaze fixedly at a spot
several blocks away as if
expecting a bus to round
the corner. Gaze as if
conjuring the bus like a rabbit
from a hat. Now look away.
Tap your foot to indicate
not to be listening to the couple
arguing on the bench.
yes it is no it isn’t you always do this
no I don’t yes you do GODDAMN IT
It’s OK to wince when he punches
the bus stop. No one’s looking
at you in that moment.
OK, beat. And—take out a cigarette.
This is your motivation
to move off—out of the wind
so you can light it. Otherwise,
it looks as if you’re reacting
to the argument you weren’t
listening to. No—you are a poet,
preoccupied with subtler things.
Smoke implacably—world-weary as if
waiting on the 53 Godot line.
Consider the pigeons pecking
at the rice from a discarded burrito
on the ground. Pretend to think
about their lives. How long
has that burrito been there?
How do they not get salmonella
or botulism—whatever it is
you get from eating a burrito
off the sidewalk? OK.
Shake it out. Focus. Now, say
your mobile rings and it’s your mother.
Pretend you are receiving
a phone call from your mother.
“Sad news.” You know what it is
before she says, but must act
surprised, dismayed. Your godmother
has died, whom you didn’t really know
but who showed up in your mother’s stead
at your first big reading, exactly as if she
were your godmother. What is appropriate
for this level of connection?
Decide how you will feel about it
and commit to that. Don’t oversell it.
While this is happening, imagine
it is really happening to you.
What would the person playing you
in the movie of your life say?
Console your mother. Wait
for the mood to even out. Hang up.
You are so far beyond
the squabbling couple and the pigeons
now; they have no idea the depth
of your emotion as you stare
at a shred of plastic snagged
in a filthy municipal tree. Pretend
not to hear the diesel motor
lumbering up the street, your reverie
broken only by the pneumatic sigh
of the bus doors opening beside you.
Brave face, chin up; stride ponderously
onto the bus as if departing your home
forever; find a window seat.
Pretend to be looking through
your reflection, instead of at it.
Cleveland Wall is a poet, teaching artist, and librarian in Bethlehem, PA. She performs with poetry improv troupe No River Twice and with musical combo The Starry Eyes. She is the author of Let X=X (Kelsay Books, 2019) and many small, handmade chapbooks.