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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Carolyn Dahl

Carolyn Dahl was the Grand Prize winner in the national 2015 Public Poetry/MFAH poetry competition ARTlines2 and a finalist in the Work-Themed poetry contest and the 2018 Malovhr-Fenlon contest. Her essays and poems have been published in 25 anthologies and in various literary journals. She is the co-author of The Painted Door Opened, received grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, fellowships to Hedgebrook and the Writer's Colony @Dairy Hollow, and won a finalist award from PEN Texas in nonfiction

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