School Bus - D.R. James

When its arched brow rises
from behind the country hill,
snub-nosed, a grin
for a grill, you remember
you’re in second grade.

There’s Cindy’s old yellow dog
feigning outrage at your passing van,
his bark and lunge petering
to that bored, panting trot.
And there the synod
of grammar schoolers wrestling
lunchboxes into a line,
reinventing the rituals, the
hierarchies, the variations
of elemental courtship.

There the oil-rosy puddles
in rutted gravel,
the soaked toes, knots
of gossiping daffodils, tufts
of too enthusiastic grass,
the bristles smudged in sage and mustard
along the far edge of fields.

When you top the hill
you know you’ll see the bus swing
a backward right in your mirror, right
onto the main road, so
you lean, small-palm
the cracked leatherette,
grasp the memory of cool steel
framing the seat ahead,
all your uncertain world
still straddling the smeared window
slid halfway down.

The same low sun stuns you
when you glance back, forward, run
your times-nines, wheel left
and head for school.

First published in Oberon

D. R. James lives with his wife, psychotherapist Suzy Doyle, in the woods east of the Lake Michigan town of Saugatuck, Michigan. With six grown children between them and six small grandchildren, they are kept plenty busy, but, when not, they like to cycle along many miles of their country roads and/or veg on the deck watching the birds and deer. James has taught writing, literature, and peace-making and coached struggling students in study skills and college-life management at a small liberal arts college for 35 years. His poems and prose appear in a variety of journals, and his most recent of nine poetry collections are Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2020), Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box, 2019), and If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press, 2017). His micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at the Origami Poems Project.