Rhina P. Espaillat

people sitting bus seats
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com


 I.  Departures

A woman grips her ticket; gate fourteen;
lines lumbering to board; holiday crowd
dressed for the islands, and a few who lean
idly before bright souvenirs and loud
paperbacks dressed for teasing. She is all
in black—tights, sweater, boots—as if to claim
new widowhood; but no, the only pall
she has borne lately is her father’s name,
recently traded for another. There
they stand, waving, father, mother, groom,
herself, divided by the glass, each pair
smiling, moving away. She wonders whom
she is least wary of. And now they’re next.
She tries to understand why she is vexed.

II.   Suppose

A woman with a suitcase boards a bus.
She has shrugged off her life like a worn dress,
stepped clear of it, packed nothing to discuss
or mourn for; to be glad of, even less.
Solicitations, greetings, pile unread
below the slot; the wedding gift, unsent,
and those back issues scattered on the bed
(unmade, for once) must wonder where she went.
Another mile or two and daylight fails
where the bus sighs and lunges, and she sees—
just barely—endless stubble fields and rails.
There in the suitcase tucked between her knees
(still tagged with names she will not wear again)
nothing but a blank notebook and a pen.

 III.   Road Map

A woman spreads a road map on the seat,
fevered with purpose, bruised by what he said,
by what she shouted back. The mapled street
unspools behind her. Oh, the weeping bed
she stole downstairs from before dawn, that last
hard angry love made there, those silent fronts
of neighbors’ porches watching her, aghast:
her daring, her departure! And at once—
hands trembling on the wheel, stricken, sweat cold
with fear of what she craves—foresees return,
rehearses how the road loops round to fold
back into what will have her, learns to learn
her name again, her place in these designs,
snug in her grief as in these fourteen lines.

“Triptych” from Her Place in These Designs (Truman State University
Press, 2008). Reprinted by permission of the author.

Dominican-born Rhina P. Espaillat writes poems, short stories and essays in English and her native Spanish, translates from and into both languages, and has earned numerous awards both for her original work and for her translations. Her most recent book is Agua de dos ríos, a bilingual collection of poems and essays, and her fifteenth, a poetry collection in English titled And After All, is due for publication by Able Muse Press this winter. She is a founding and active member of the Powow River Poets, at:  http://www.powowriverpoets.com