Night Bus

by Brian Kirk

Travelling in hope, a child mother stares at her phone
willing it to ring; she lays her head on the pane,
surrenders to the squalor while her sallow baby sleeps,
indifferent to the sick and indigent clamouring at the doors
bathed in the orange sodium glare.

It is too late to be abroad in the city where we are all
equally blessed and cursed; barely able, biddable,
eyes shut tight against the light, ears deafened by
the raucous laughter learned in pubs.

City lights can’t hide the shapes of bodies cowering
as we pass; bus shelters harbour the hospitals’ surfeit,
doorways house the hostels’ detritus,
beggars own the sweepings of the street.

Inchicore passed, the girl is losing patience as we stall
between St. Michael’s and the South Circular Road;
on Camden Street, in traffic at a crawl, she grips
the handle of the pram but does not stand;
the doors hiss open, close, another wave of souls
tramp down the stairs.

I swallow bile and wish her phone would ring. I wish
the bus would turn around, but know we can’t go back;
over the intercom the driver counsels and cajoles:
put out those cigarettes, we’re almost there.
I think: We’re almost home.