I stood and cried in The Magazine Bus,
Deep in New Orleans, in the city rush,
as it plowed and choked along
like a curved-back dinosaur
wheezing through the swampy ways,
rattling electric wires in a maze
of strangling city vines,
stamping the earth with oil and pugmarks,
straddling, shifting, sliding up and down
shifting, blinking, yawling, yelping,
pawing, I rode the dinosaur,
Nawlin's crowded Magazine Bus.
Nothing like its roar, its shaking great sides,
the sudden shifts and hang-on-dear;
I gaze outside at tangerine skies
and hang on to my slippery seat,
gripping the slick and sticky chrome,
as the bus comes rumbling home.
Motley passengers come and go:
there's a guy with a silver saxophone,
kicks at a dog with its nose hung upside down,
all broken bones.
Now I sit in the rear on the Magazine Bus,
with him my love,
my feet braced, heart racing,
supported by his strong, sure arm,
How is it, now, that Nawleens charms?
How, with its lights, its songs, its trash and mud,
coughing up its sputum,
its body and its blood?
I’m a flower, bloomed out, already picked, and strung --
drying out around the neck of my young
lover, there I’m hung.
He snatched me from a midnight-siren hell,
when my husband left me, after he had his will.
Then came this patient sweetness:
for him, I let loose my hair
and he, my new love,
caught each tender thread,
held me steady here.
Busfumes, guns, and truckhowls
twist hours through afternoons:
then come night's bright glowing lights,
fighting off the gloom.
Our Magazine Bus, it lumbers on,
and the driver holds tight with his two long arms,
telling his jokes as he blinks in the sun.
(Butcher-shop New Orleans,
your bright masks hide the night...
Magazine Bus, you dinosaur---!
---Hush, baby---it's all right!]
His kiss made all the difference:
His touch revived my soul:
And New Orleans made it Easy
to let the Big things go.
Tomorrow, we will fly away,
but today in the Bus we stand,
And my lover promises roses,
as he holds my trembling hand---
don't judge us, you
who drive your cars,
who live in air conditioned halls,
with no graffiti on your walls:
you cannot have come as far as we,
in all your evolution's days,
nor can you know the rings we wear
are not the symbols that they seem:
just the same as New Orleans,
you'll never be sure
JVB August, 1963, New Orleans, LA