Mark Russell



Love Often Bares its Teeth

I am waiting for the number 44 bus,
it is raining and my bag is full of books
I have become less than keen to read;
they weigh me down, prod and bump
as if I carry a badly-concealed family
of cats. And not for the first time.

When I board I notice you are the driver—
I don’t know whether to make some remark,
don’t want to belittle your new occupation,
can’t decide if I should comment on how well
you fill the uniform, if this might be
inappropriate. And not for the first time.

I pay my fare, give you a tip
because I don’t have the right change,
sit in my favourite seat, enjoy the sting
and blind of oncoming traffic, see your face
on the front page of the Metro
with the story of your dimples. And, damn it,

the elderly man sitting by the window,
who swats the rain as it hits the glass,
growls curses or compliments—
it’s difficult to tell them apart, especially at night—
is also you. Your unshaven face is no disguise,
nor the smell of piss and chips, lager

and Hilary Duff’s ‘With Love’. Strangely,
you are also changing a flat tyre
outside the Spar by the school. I recognise
your scarf, the angle at which you hold your head.
That coat will have to go to the dry cleaners,
with the soiled hanky you use on the jack.

On the top deck a fight erupts. I hear your voice,
its gentle pace, the peacemaker’s tone,
and all goes quiet, the tempest quelled.
As I get off in Sauchiehall Street, you
get on with a surfboard, talking on your mobile
to your mother in New Zealand, whom you love,

and who loves you, of course, that’s what mothers do,
and I swear you see me, nod, pay your fare,
go upstairs out of sight. The doors close.
As the bus pulls away water drips from my hair
down my back, inside my trousers. Even the rain
is you, breathing, beckoning, open mouthed.



 Mark Russell has published Saturday Morning Pictures (Red Ceilings), and Pursued by Well-being (tall-lighthouse). His poetry has appeared most recently in The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, and Bare Fiction.

Note: ‘Love Often Bares its Teeth’ was first published in the pamphlet Pursued by Well-being (tall-lighthouse).

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