Back of the Bus
I’m two seats away from the back of the bus. I’m only here because there’s no places at the front. And I’m terrified of hearing anyone say my name.
For the last hour of this journey I’ve been pretending to be asleep. I’m gripping my bag, trying to block out the whooping and shrieking, and the pushing and shoving. I pull up my legs, draw in my shoulders, roll into a little ball in the corner of the seat and press my face hard into the cold window as if I can disappear.
I’m thinking of the new puppy at home, its silky fur and its wet nose, and the puddle it made on the kitchen floor this morning. I’m thinking of my brother trying to clean his trousers with soap and a nailbrush in the bathroom after a chocolate bar had melted in his pocket. I’m wondering if I could learn a new prayer to say at bedtime.
What I’m not thinking about is trying to open my parents’ bedroom door and finding it locked, or the television programmes that are abruptly switched off, or the embarrassment of finding my father naked in the bath, or the blood in the toilet bowl one morning. I’m not going to think of the word experienced.
I can hear them opening cans of coke that should’ve been drunk at lunch time and playing Truth or Dare. And all of the dares are to kiss someone. Not a peck on the cheek. It has to be an open mouthed, tongue down the throat, full on, proper, girlfriend boyfriend, wet lips moving together, squidgy, taste each other, smell each other’s sweat, intimate snog. I’ve heard the girls talking about the shame of boys biting their lips or banging their teeth.
There’s giggling and swapping of seats, and I know some of the girls are on the boys’ knees and one of them will be Trisha Bell, she’s the most experienced.
Why isn’t Miss Marshall coming to stop them? I wish I could’ve sat nearer the front. I know which boys are on the back seat and I think about which of them it would be the least excruciating to kiss. David Dolan is of course number one because everybody fancies him, second Antony Weir, although he’s got a girlfriend so I’m not sure if he’ll even be playing. Third, it’ll have to be Laurence Appleton, he’s got nice hair and his clothes are always clean and he even sometimes talks to me at break. Tony Johnson is too tall and gangly. Michael Bryant is too tiny with buck teeth. Gary Cliff has ginger hair and he’s fat, and I know he’s at the front of the bus, probably deliberately saving himself from this humiliation. Peeping out of one eye we’re passing the church on the hill. We’re nearly back. I squeeze my eyes tight again, willing the bus to arrive back at the school.
‘Anne Marie,’ someone calls my name.
I ignore it. They’ll pick someone else quickly enough.
‘Anne Marie.’ This time it’s a few of them shouting.
I feel someone sit beside me.
‘Come on, Anne Marie.’
I’m pulled reluctantly to the back seat.
‘Truth or dare? Truth or dare?’ The faces crowd round as I force myself backwards into the rough seat away from the pack.
‘Dare,’ I say.
‘Kiss Martin Harper.’
Martin Harper’s got a tooth missing, he knocked it out when he jumped off a wall in the school playground so he wears a plastic palate with a piece of metal and a false tooth attached. He ‘s got a funny smell. His skin’s yellow and his hair’s all greasy.
I shiver as the bodies on the back seat shuffle along and Martin Harper squashes in beside me. He doesn’t seem to smell so bad today, maybe he washed especially. I turn my head towards his, close my eyes and open my mouth like I’ve practised on the back of my hand. It feels like he’s trying to eat me. His lips press hard and move fast around my mouth, and now I can feel his arm slide around my back and he’s slowed right down. I open my eyes, the wolves have moved on. Martin Harper and I clutch each other tighter and carry on getting experienced.
Ledlowe Guthrie lives in Sheffield near a park. She lies awake at night hoping to be inspired by Tawny owls twitting and twooing outside. She has been published in The View From Here.Read More
the same old same old
and the paper cut barely
scratches the surface
visions of jesus
at the midnight station
the last train is first
now giving the star treatment
on the fly
in the sun
there is a dog
in a car
S Black: Other indulgences may be found at the likes of Message in a Bottle, Screech Owl and Dogear. West country born and bred, now residing near Reading.Read More
Charon Drives a Yellow Taxi in Gaza
the cabbie suddenly thrust in the role of Charon
is now burdened
with transporting to paradise
the soul of a passenger that dies before
she can tell him her destination
but there is a problem, he doesn’t know the way
he circles around the edges of this city of shelled ruins
stopping at every light to ask for directions
to where no one is sure exists. In the end, after a futile attempt
to find a place
that is nowhere on the map, he surrenders to the saintly voice
of the GPS guiding him further down
highways to nowhere
until at some point, when it gets him to
the edge of a cliff, it says jump … he drives on
deeper into the formless shapeless endless unknown
following the lights
that keep coming up in the horizon then fading…
Lucas Chib: His poetry has appeared in Glasgow Review of Books and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. He has worked at a refugee camp, collaborated on and edited screenplays, managed the creative production wing an art publishing company. He currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland.Read More
not wardrobe with my back against the wall
ladle not fork
breast stroke not crawl
lintel not brick
flagpole not vault
sweetcorn not wheat
I would like to meet a man for swimming,
visits to ikea,
prefers public buildings to a pub (lol)
and is looking to buy a cottage in a year or two
gluten intolerance would be a plus
Sue Birchenough has been writing poems for about 4 years. She lives in Buxton, and regularly gets to poetry workshops, events, and readings in Manchester – occasionally in London, too. She has poems in the English PEN Catechism anthology, the Peter Barlow’s Cigarette No Spy Zone anthology, and the forthcoming Like This Press Austin, Bronte, and Shakespeare anthology. In 2012 and 2013 she was shortlisted in the Erbacce poetry prize.Read More
and she panics away.
Sit still. So.
Be a karst hill,
for her panting wings
to slow, slow.
This is a special trust
or she mistakes your
leg for a flower.
you are blessed
by this silken
gift. Her probing
you a thousand
thanks. She is so
delicate, a single
word could snap
up the orange bands
on her velvet brown
her flying back
into the breath
of the wind.
Matthew Friday is a writer, professional storyteller and primary school teacher. By all means check out the results at:www.matthewfriday.com
Encountered a man
‘And I, too, used to carve and serve up
great failures for myself
said the old flapping man.
I met him on a bus
throttling ourselves south to stay warm.
I had bundled sorrowfully
into a corner hoping for silence and majesty
when this tale-teller
accosted me in peace and forced my ears,
‘I, too, have gazed at that frost…’
(indeed, it was cold on the fields)
‘… and shuddered.’
I dozed amidst his talk,
he cawed like all men do,
I was just a tired old bird like him,
dozed and clucked and dozed.
Rob Yates is moving through South-East Asia trying to make his money stretch. He has just finished a first novel, entitled Trumbling Grandsire.Read More
You’d have thought
that my journeying
from Telford to London
would be enough time
to read these poems
to darn a jumper
to stare out the window; but
between the announcements
the ticket inspection
the dark-light of tunnels
the loud conversations
the fast-moving humans
our slowing at stations;
all I have managed
is a few short emails, and to watch a man with thick black moustache:
A luggage-rack reflection, he eases off a tinfoilcover, spoons,
with love, the cherry yoghurt, to his lips,
avoiding drips on to suit,
pale pink shirt and, instead of a tie, a thing
whose name escapes me but it hangs like a ribbon, holding his identity.
Once scraped clean, pot put away in Tupperware, tangerine untouched.
It strikes me, later, at a party, where a man is talking lanyards; that
perhaps too, I was watched – with tilted head, and upturned eyes; and
how the train had wrapped us all, like segments in an unpeeled orange.
Nadia Kingsley is a poet and publisher. She is currently collaborating on an Arts Council England funded performance : e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IN 45 MINUTES, in a mobile planetarium dome. http://www.fairacrepress.co.uk/