KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Poem: 450 words [R]

The Bus to Pomasqui

by Steve Kowit
Then it was settled—I’d cut myself loose from a life 
as fetid & tangled as sea wrack 
& start again where nobody knew me. I dug out 
my maps & circled the likeliest spot: Pomasqui. 
Directly on the equator. Latitude zero. Yeah, 
that would do nicely. Stuffing what little I owned 
in my green canvas sack I trekked my way south 
to Cali, then Guayaquil up to Quito 
where somebody told me what bus I should catch 
—which I did. We lurched from the stop with a screech. 
Thrown off my feet, I flailed about till I managed, 
somehow, to grab at a strap & tumble into a seat. 
When I looked out the window the city was gone. 
The Andean landscape rushed past, exquisite 
perhaps, but quicker than one would have guessed. 
That fool was gunning us over the hills 
at incredible speeds. I gasped as I stared at the man 
at the wheel: immense, obese, his head 
oddly misshapen, his massive neck varnished 
in sweat. The face in his rear-view mirror, the sort 
that one sees in asylums—without any forehead 
to speak of & eyes much too small & too far apart. 
I was scared. Scared out of my wits. Outside, 
what must have been mountains & rivers flew by 
in a blur. The sun, like something too leaden to float, 
tore heavily thru the horizon. Then night, 
with its flickering shadows, & now & again 
in the distance the lights of what must have been cities. 
No doubt the town of Pomasqui among them. 
“Pomasqui!” I cried out as I leapt to my feet. 
But the bus bucked, slamming me back. We weren’t 
going to stop, that much was clear. “Now see here! 
See here!” I screamed out as loud as I dared— 
which is when I saw what I should have seen 
from the start: the man had no ears. I started to weep. 
“It’s not fair! It’s simply not fair!”—The others, 
stolid & silent Ecuadorenos, sat wrapped 
in their ponchos, unmoving. I sobbed 
helplessly into my hands. Nevertheless, even now— 
despite every betrayal, all those botched dreams: 
the woman I could not forgive, the children 
who never came back, myself the same fool, only 
grayer & stooped; even now, understanding at last 
that there’s no disembarking, no turning back, 
that the world itself is nothing but motion: 
ephemeral, flickering, emptiness whirling in space— 
there are times when I still refuse to believe it, times 
when the wretched deceit of it all overcomes me, 
& suddenly I’ll leap to my feet—yes, 
even now—with the old indignation & terror. 
“Now see here,” I cry out. “Now see here!”

— From Kowit’s collection, The First Noble Truth (University of Tampa Press, 2007); reprinted by permissions from author and publisher

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