Bus Driver

by Jack Ridl

Standing at the back door, waiting

while the bus's engine hums

against the dark cold, its exhaust

a flume chilling into ice, melting

the snow beneath it, Driver, hands

in pockets, draws on his cigarette,

exhales, and feels the mean language

of age move in his bones.

Behind him, in the losers' locker room,

he knows his boys are dressing slowly,

staring into mirrors, setting their

wet hair straight, frowning at the way

they have to look, trying to think of

anything but the silent ride home.

The snow, packed hard now in midwinter,

squeaks under foot, and the air freezes

in the lungs, burns like a tongue

stuck to a frozen lamppost. Driver

glances at the bus, WILSON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

in black letters along its side, then up into

the sky, clouds crossing the full moon's

light like angels trying to comfort

anyone against a loss. The players

come out, pass him, step up into

the bus, find their seats. Coach

gets on last, sits in front. Driver

takes a last draw, feels the smoke

mix in his lungs, exhales, drops

the butt, a quiet hiss into the ice,

gets on and pulls the warm bus out,

across the empty lot, down a block,

left onto the highway home.


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