RDC Poetry Feb 2018

On The Bus from Cleveland

                 by M. Doretta Cornell, RDC


We were halfway to New York, gummy

with failed sleep, somewhere in Ohio,

a dreary little evening town, when the door

wheezed open and the khaki uniforms came in,

dull-eyed, poking down the aisle stern and stone-faced,

the rifle bearers glaring over our heads.


Immigration, someone murmured.

We hunched in our seats, tried to look

as “American” as possible.

Even with my Bronx accent, I felt the chill.


It was like that afternoon in South Africa,

our bus leaving the safari park

when the solemn dark men stepped out

onto the empty road and our driver said quietly,

Don’t argue, don’t refuse, look respectful.

Talk quietly so they’ll hear your accents.


We hushed as they pushed their way down the aisle,

narrow for the guns, then ordered us off, the baggage

bins opened.  Our one Black couple was ordered

to open their passports. 


Sure enough, it wasn’t until the men heard Kentucky

in their voices that suddenly they were gone,

and our driver motioned us quickly back on the bus

and pulled out, lest they have a second thought.


In Ohio, no words were spoken

and we were not ordered off the bus. 

The hush lasted long after the guns left

and we moved once again onto the American highway.


originally published in Evening Street Review Number 17 Autumn 2017