On the Bus Someday

By Jessica Greenbaum Jessica Greenbaum
Of  that string of memories about our lost friendship I remember
being invited places as a pair, like a comedy team; and after
one party, our self-parody of our own stammering
speechlessness when introduced to Henrik, the Swedish god
auto mechanic; our twin, garish, purple-flowered swimsuits
from Kmart, outlining, around Texas, our sameness
and differences; our dual waitressing shifts across town,
and the long phone calls that followed with their emphatic
reiteration of every stingy six-top ordering candy-flavored
alcoholic drinks; the after-work visit where we brayed,
stomped, then blinked stupidly (while the needle hit
the LP’s end) at the empty fifth of gin left on the coffee table,
prompting a dim: Uh oh; your imitation of your mother’s
habitual and by-the-way inexplicable confession about you
to shoe salesmen: She has a  funny foot; the apartments,
the Olivettis, the boyfriends, all the thoughts exchanged
unedited like an experiment of the big, walk-in consciousness,
which we might have assumed the verbal equivalent
of sex for friends, and whatever closeness meant, we wanted
as much as we could have, it was our post-graduate work
in The Humanities. Even now, I can’t resist striking up
a conversation while standing on line, any line, or introducing
myself enthusiastically to whomever I am introduced,
but the truth is I am not looking for new friends at this point;
I am trying to locate the lost ones, the ones who left
through the hole of an argument decades ago,
a time more panicked and carefree than any other, except maybe
the early years of motherhood, which I missed sharing
with you on playground benches. But surely I will see you
on the bus someday, and your greeting will package
our jokes, advice, tears, book talk, our years of reliance.
And so I will expect you will tell me how much I have
misunderstood and wrongly assumed in these descriptions,
because I never expect those people who have mattered
to remain completely gone, even through death, or rebuke.
And of course I have to remember what parted us,
that I found faults with your other friends, that I spoke
as critically and crassly about them as I did about my own person,
and to this day I have to be careful of that trait, my junkyard
dog of expression, safe only with me on a too-long leash. Here,
again, telling you everything with no reason but for
memory’s insistence that I string an apology from what I see.

Source: Poetry (May 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2014
 Jessica  Greenbaum


Jessica Greenbaum’s first book, Inventing Difficulty (Silverfish Review Press, 1998), won the Gerald Cable Prize. Her second book, The Two Yvonnes (2012), was chosen by Paul Muldoon for Princeton’s Series of Contemporary Poets. She is the poetry editor for upstreet and lives in Brooklyn. She received a 2015 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Time & Brevity, Youth, Love, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Relationships, Friends & Enemies

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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