On The Bus

Sitting by the window of the bus,

she was trapped by the man who

took the seat at the aisle as well

as her voice when he placed his

meaty hand on her thigh and kept

it there knowing he had her for

as long as the ride might last,

certain from a glance that she

would hold still because she was

raised right, a polite girl who

avoided strangers but could never

be rude. She said nothing, of course,

only stared at the window where his

reflection leered with the smug

pleasure of a cur that has cornered

its prey. When at last he rang

the bell and was gone, she exhaled

the breath she’d held for blocks

as tears of rage sluiced down her

cheeks, salted with fury that with

all the proper behaviors she’d been

taught, she never learned to scream.


©Dana Hughes  4.17.18

3 thoughts on “On The Bus

  1. Yet again, you find a way to take a moment in time and make it eternal. The unwanted hand on her knee, her held breath—almost a suspended animation—all make time stop until the bus stops and time, and rage, and tears move on. It’s hard to imagine something like this happening today, but maybe it still does, and more’s the pity there. I love the repressed scream in this poem, the held-back tears that can no longer be contained, the polite girl just beginning to learn that propriety isn’t always the right response. Thanks for this.

  2. I didn’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t happen, but only to express my dismay that it does. I hope—but don’t know—that were such a thing to happen to my daughter she would simply get up and move, perhaps (knowing her as I do) with a terse but appropriate comment on the man’s character. I suspect the truth is that it has happened to her, and that she doesn’t want her daddy to know. Thanks for the poem.

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