Bus to Work – a sestina
It’s pretty easy here. I’m sitting still.
The engine chugs. I regulate my breath
whilst watching passing fathers. There’s his son.
They’re on their way to school. The bus moves on.
A new electric car draws up. We move.
It’s left behind. It’s stopped at lights that changed.
That building site’s a mess. It hasn’t changed
there’s always something happening, but still
the same. It never alters. Will they move
the cones? We’ll hit them soon. Too close! My breath
stops. Beamer driver has to try it on.
It’s grey. The forecast says there won’t be sun.
I try to focus. Jesus Christ. God’s son
is meant to help me persevere. I’ve changed
the way I think. I want to switch it on –
the peace they say you get from God. I still
myself and somehow can’t. If prayer is breath
I’m blocked. By what? A small unknown won’t move.
That cyclist doesn’t want to live. Just move!
These people think they’re it. They think the sun
shines out their arse. She needs to draw a breath.
She’s talked so long without a pause, she’s changed.
She’s gone a purple-red. Good God! She’s still
not breathed! So loud! Wait. Did I turn mine on?
because… Well, if the meeting isn’t on,
this journey’s wasted. What the…? Did he move
my bag? He looks a nutter. Just keep still.
I can’t quite see his face because the sun
is in my eyes behind his head. It’s changed!
The sun came out! It’s lighting up my breath.
I wake most mornings feeling short of breath.
The thought of work no longer turns me on –
the daily route to work that hasn’t changed,
the place I live because I never move –
it’s everyday, but just because the sun
will rise, and stop my body lying still.
And will the breath of God return and move
me on? And resurrect me like the sun
today? I wait each day un-changed and still.
Sestinas are difficult – the idea is that you have to re-use the last word in each sentence in each verse – but in a different, set order (in this case “breath”, “on”, “changed”, “move”, “sun” and “still”) and then you have to use them all in the last short verse of 3 lines (again, in a certain order). I’m making it sound more complicated than it is, but it’s easy to follow when you know what the pattern is. But a bugger to write.
Its great fun, because it can force you to make disjointed sentences that make the poem sound like the ramblings of someone slightly un-hinged, or in this case, the disjointed things that you might think about on the bus.