Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Stephen Dunn in Vallum
Waiting for the Bus
Just let the world happen to you,
a Buddhist friend once advised.
I told him it was not my style.
Now here comes a punky boy
with spiked hair
amping his music into my life
and the newspaper I'm trying
to hide behind tells us the man
who can't read the iffy world
has once again rolled the dice.
"I'm so tired of being starved,"
a woman says to another woman,
loud enough to be overheard.
Some of us wait for the bus.
Others turn to her and nod.
The speaker in this poem lives in a contradiction. "It was not my style," the speaker says, to "let the world happen," yet the speaker hides behind a newspaper, not engaged with the world. In fact, the speaker seems to be purposely disengaged with it, attempting to place a barrier between self and the world. Perhaps this prevents the world from happening to him or her, but it also prevents the speaker from affecting the world.
The newspaper/barrier is an illusion, however, and the speaker can't escape the "punky" boy's music, the woman's lament of being "starved," or the bad news in the paper itself. The woman's statement--"I'm so tired of being starved"--expresses both her lack of connection with the world and her desire for it. She says this "loud enough to be overheard," wanting to be known and understood. In the crowd, some continue to "wait for the bus" while some "turn to her and nod."
The world is happening to these people whether they acknowledge it or not. The speaker attempts to hide; the woman reaches out for connection; some ignore what is happening and wait for something better. There is a palpable sense of alienation that comes through the poem, and it strikes me that the answer is not how the world does or doesn't happen--it will no matter how we respond--but how we connect with others and maintian the quality of our relationships. Hiding doesn't work. Waiting doesn't work. I find myself hoping this woman finds sustenance in the company of others.
Photo by eschipul via flickr/CC