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Monday, 3 June 2013

Last Bus


Golden Gate:
Gerhard Richter, 1989, oil on photograph, 10 x 15 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

The last bus one hour and twelve minutes late
at the bleak nearly deserted downtown stop
and when I enquire of the only person waiting
at the kiosk
whether the bus may have already gone past
He says Fuck off don't you try to talk to me
and turns his back
and high above him atop the new tower block
the giant neon lights advertising
the hotel that wasn't there the last time I looked
flash on and off
advertising the five luxury dining rooms.

Untitled (1.5.89): Gerhard Richter, 1989, oil on colour photograph, 15 x 10 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

File:LandsEnd 665.JPG

Beach at Land's End: photo by DaNASCAT, 4 July 2010

File:Golden Gate Bridge architecture 18.jpg

Golden Gate Bridge: cracks and spalling to the paintwork due to relative movements of the steel cable: photo by Tewy, 19 July 2006


Suicide prevention message, Golden Gate Bridge: photo by David Corby, 19 February 2006


Marie W said...

Tom, is there crisis counseling available at the last bus stop as well? I am sure that standing at the kiosk in the late hours probing the fog for the last chance to reach home today one very often feels like making a call to whoever-wherever can get us out of here. This poem feels so true. It must have happened yesterday.
I love the Gerhard Richter painting on photographs. 10 X 15cm, ah, very reassuring, in a way, such great art on small format.

Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

Terrific poem. The heartless cold, the urban disengagement, the goddamned dining rooms we shall never set foot in....

TC said...

Marie, the only crisis counseling at that bus stop is of the watch your back, every man for himself variety. This happened night before last, as a matter of fact. Though it's also happened before, with only slight variations. (Is that what they used to call eternal recurrence?)

Red, I probably don't have to tell you that those goddamned dining rooms were definitely meant for other people.



Given your poem, Richter's 2 photos (taken the same year as the quake), the view of the tilted up beach at Land's End, those weathered cables, "THERE IS HOPE" might be wishful thinking . . .


light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, sparrow calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

condition the same in space,
description of object

symmetrical right-hand side,
theory of, problem of

blinding edge of sun rising above ridge,
fog on horizon to the left of the point

De Villo Sloan said...

Great poem, Tom.

Once scanning was something different from the WalMart checkout; at least I know that much.

The circuits could be totally blown out here, but that poem has a lot of trochees & dactyls that give it a curious emphatic/drive quality, dispersed as they are throughout the more variable "common speech" rhythms. You also have some interesting pentameter action going on there,I think.

I mention only because the musicality serves the higher purpose of your content in this one.

(Again, I am not the best on scanning in the check-out line but felt I detected some patterns in the bar code.}

That same kind of musicality is present in those wonderful Richter pieces, if I can further stretch this rant across visual-textual-auditory.

Again, really fine poem.

TC said...


If there really were to be HOPE, it would seem appropriate that the sign posting on the bridge would at least include a free telephone to make that desperate call for help. But I don't even see a pay phone. In this high-end town, I suppose even suicidals must possess their own "mobile devices".

"I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane", sang Waylon Jennings.

De Villo,

Thanks very much for noticing.

There's been so much misuse of the term "poetry" by people who have neither enough respect for the art to recognise its signs, when it's happening, nor the patience and/or modesty to learn what might be required to actually produce it.

What you call musicality was once regarded as a sine qua non in this art.

Now musicality is generally resented (stupidity and haste would be the causes).

Hand me my tin ear horn!

Wooden Boy said...

The image of the back turned with the neon lights bled across it; perfect evocation of the broken promise. The Richters mirror this very well.

The night bus is a very particular kind of horror.

Nora said...

There's nothing like the sense of despair (touched with injustice) that comes with waiting for a bus that never arrives.

Hazen said...

Great poem, Tom. Great post. The revelation, in a few strokes, of a faded, off-kilter world giving way beneath its own weight. That image of the red and fraying cable is a perfect counterpoise. Bring Your Own Safety Net. The bottom comes up fast.

De Villo Sloan said...

Tom, your statement, "musicality is generally resented...", is the ultimate irony, especially concerning the much-abused practice of "free verse."

One of the things I appreciate about Edward Dorn: A World of Difference is the close reading of the poems. As much as I wanted to think I was a good Dorn reader, I never would have gotten what he did poetically otherwise.

"Is 'Hemlocks' Really a Poem?" is a great example. "Hemlocks" embodies all sorts of elements of the poetic tradition, only reworked in a very, very innovative way. That readers couldn't/(still) can't see what is right there in front of them is startling.

The reading of "The Rick of Green Wood" was equally as enlightening for me. Again, I hadn't been aware of Dorn's understanding of the poetic tradition nor his ability to forge a new poetics that kept things from being simply imitations of what went before. Yet the music remains - no tin ear in that case.

I only go into this because "Last Bus," in a similar way reveals there is a difference between poetry and prose.

Heck, Creeley made a distinction between "verse" and "poetry." Maybe that's more to the point.

BDR said...

Where's the phone? Where's the number?

Beautiful post.


Nora, I remember that "missed the boat" feeling that the bus used to give so often. Ship of fools perhaps.

Tom, where were you heading?

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Great poem, Tom. BTW, over here in Hellas, whenever you ask someone if the bus has already gone past, if it hasn't they usually answer with a "What bus?"; if it has, they gesture with a windup of their hand as if they are getting ready to sling a fastball and let loose with an extended two-syllable word that sends you into utter dejection--TO------RA (Now) meaning that said bus has long since departed and better luck with the next one if and when it comes along!

TC said...

Thanks everyone.

"... a faded, off-kilter world giving way beneath its own weight... The bottom comes up fast."

Amen, brother.

It's one long missed-the-boat, missed-the-bus kind of deal, and this is its unsung story.

Vincent, as you enquire, I was homeward bound.

More from Our Town.

tpw said...

A perfect poem, worth the experience you had to go through to get it. Thanks, Tom.

TC said...

Thanks, Terry. (Things have been a bit taxing of late, I suppose that shows.)