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21st Century Poetry The Last Bus Home

by Steve Harrison

Somewhere in that gentle breather
between caring and being cared for,
you get a bus pass.
Join a frugal gang of off-peak free trippers,
reclaim the daylight-safe city streets,
freshly scrubbed from last night’s shenanigans.
I get on the 9:45 X5 to Shrewsbury
The Driver doesn’t look up to check my age
(Bastard!)
In my memory redundant gun-slinger conductors
still swagger the aisle,
criss-crossed with cowhide straps,
bandolier change-dispenser
balancing a ticket machine cocked and thumb trigger high.

The ghost of my friend Roger Rycroft shares
the vibrating seat at the front and explains
the gear changes by the noise and quiet
of the School Bus transmission system.
Doris struggles with her shopper’s wheels
to enjoy the smiles of welcome.
Billy the Quiff skips on at Atcham
catwalks the bus
reclaims the back seat from his youth
leaves a trail of over-optimistic aftershave. 
Tartan trolleys, wagons circled in the luggage space,
uncurl and alight to re-stock
with bargain beans and smoky bacon bits.
Return timetables are checked twice.

The last bus home leaves much, much earlier now.

Steve Harrison lives in Shropshire, is widely published and is a past winner of the Ledbury Poetry Festival slam.

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