On the Bus Through Tennessee, circa 1995
Two white-haired ladies up front ask each other
"What's your favorite Bible verse?"
A foreign man discovers he is going the wrong way towards Knoxville.
"Son, there are 5 Knoxvilles," the bus driver shouts.
We make an unscheduled stop to let the man out.
"And they wonder why we're late," the driver huffs.
"Trust in the Lord," answers one of the Bible ladies.
A woman wearing many rings on both hands
gets out her red lipstick, red as her red plaid muumuu.
"This little suitcase has been to Egypt," she tells the Bible ladies.
"Oh, you couldn't pay us to get on an airplane,"
the Bible ladies answer.
Out the window we pass small hills
of furrowed orange soil, shiny new trailer homes
and weathered wood buildings, their roofs as orange as the dirt.
We stop in some small town to refuel and watch
a crowd of beauty school girls with short, crimped hairdos
enter their place of instruction.
Haircuts half-priced! a faded sign proclaims.
Two college girls on the bus laugh at the beauty school girls
and talk about their favorite night clubs.
"We went to this techno-music place, "one says.
"You know, with real fast music, but my dumb sister
danced just the way she always does, snapping her fingers real slow.
I was so mad at her, we didn't stay there long. Why couldn't she
look around and see the way all the other people were dancing?"
A man boards, a bug-eyed man wearing snakeskin boots
with real snake heads sprouting out of the pointy toes.
He says something to the Bible ladies, but they ignore him.
They talk about how pretty the daffodils are,
out there along the highway.
Coming closer to Nashville, all the people below in their tiny cars
begin to look different, more glamorous and souped-up,
wearing fancy western wear, satin touring jackets,
bouffant hairdos and theatrical makeup, like they are
all candidates for the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"Woo-eee, Nashville!" a young soldier shouts,
and all the passengers look around at each other
and smile, roll their eyes, or sigh.
We are glad to get where we are going,
glad to pack up our lunch bags and magazines,
glad to leave this stuffy bus
and its weary assortment of ragged humanity behind,
glad to be hurrying towards people
we can tell stories to, stories about all the strangers on the bus,
so very glad to see people who know us and call us by name,
so glad not to be strangers anymore.
- Keddy Ann Outlaw
This week finds me without fresh words, so I dug out an old poem and dusted it off. Don't think I've been on an intercity bus since then.... Train travel appeals to me. Years ago, I went clear across Canada by train. And once I went by train with a group of friends from Houston to New Orleans - great fun. This winter, I'm digging in at home. I traveled to NY in December and that should hold me for awhile. They say it snowed in 49 of 50 states last week. We had one frost in Houston so far, and I'm hoping that was it for our winter. Wherever you are, hope you are staying warm and faring well.
photo by KAO: Winter Sky