- On the Bus
These children—damaged, sick or simple. The girl inside the public lavatory in Limerick station, eight, maybe nine, her dark hair in a Jeanne d'Arc helmet, and how she stood there, smiling, hands held out, until her mother missed her, came back, told her it was time to leave the warm air streaming from the dryer. Then there was the daughter in those poems you wrote: over and over comes her small hand trusting yours, comes the misshapen face that you have loved and lost to death. And now there is this child in the seats across from me, this girl who locked her eyes on mine as she moved down the bus, and I, just waking, thought she'd walked out of the fifties— the cotton dress, white socks, neat hair slide, her blue eyes, undefended from the stares of strangers.
The dark boy minding her has settled her beside the window, but now she's leaning round to find my eyes again, her gaze so deep, intense, it's like aggression, and I have turned away, afraid of seeing what she sees inside me, afraid that she's unpicking all my closely seamed deceptions, until I wonder if she is your daughter come again, her face all smoothed out and her crutches long discarded, your daughter come to tell me that misfortune, too, makes shapes and colours on the life-page, fills it, and that fear can be accepted for its deep derangement. I make myself look back again to find her eyes, but she's elsewhere, this damaged child, her head is fallen forward so that her thick, light hair swings with the bus to veil her and her loose-limbed brother sprawls in sleep beside her.
Kerry Hardie was born in 1951 and lives in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Her publications include four collections of poetry, a chapbook and two novels. Most recently her book of poems The Silence Came Close was released with Gallery Press. She has won many awards, including the National Poetry Prize (Ireland).