All Night Bus: Mexico

With a push and shove,
I board the dirty, dented bus.
It lurches forward, jerks
the roof riders clutching
racks and bleating goats.

In a seat for two, three of us squeeze.

Sandwiched in the middle, I press
against the aisle sitter’s body, half
of which balances on a sliver of seat,
the other half suspends over the air
of the aisle, held in place by the push
of another body from across the gap.

Caught in a bridge, the two men
levitate like magicians over the abyss,
conjuring seats where none exist.

Daylight disappears into smudges,
flares briefly in fractured window cracks,
confusing the rooster who crows
beneath a man’s serape. Sometimes
we skid to a stop in the desert’s nowhere,
drop a family into shadows, their goat
leading the way home through
starlight and scorpions.

Shouldn’t I be afraid? Saguaros rise
from the dark, thick arms raised like bandits
who might be real. I am a woman alone,
know no Spanish, riding with strangers
and a driver who is high on peyote,
in a rickety bus leaking carbon monoxide.

Yet, what I feel is peace.

I trust the dusty Madonna pasted
to the bus wall, her hand raised
in perpetual blessing. I find comfort
in fussing babies under mothers’ rebozos,
smelling tortillas, the soft breaths
of the aisle sitter whose head
has nodded onto my shoulder.

I have the luxury of choice.

Yet, I chose this box of souls
rattling over rock-studded roads
on patched tires and rusted
axles. I don’t sleep, but watch
the driver’s rosary swing
from the broken mirror.
I hold my place in this moment
like the aisle sitters hold each other
over the abyss until morning.

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About the Author

Carolyn Dahl is the 2020 winner of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook contest for A Muddy Kind of Love, which will be published by North Dakota State University in 2021. Her 2019 chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, was a first place winner in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication contest, the Press Women of Texas’ contest, and also received an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Carolyn Dahl
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