This poem first appeared in the Fall, 2014 issue of The Antioch Review.
by Mark Kraushaar
On a Greyhound out of Chicago
the blinky, bright stranger beside me watches me write.
Do you mind? she says, Your wide “m’s” affirm
an inclination to weight gain.
and, while your heavy pressure shows
wholesome commitment, those careful margins
tell me you’re trapped.
It’s all on the page: that broad “p” loop
confirms a born worrier too.
Placing her hand on my arm,
clearing her throat, but you make a beautiful comma:
all down-stroke, never a jab.
Not just that.
Those deep “u”s
together with the long roof of your “f” show
a beneficent, sheltering nature—
I see it in the stretched arms of this “y”.
I see it in the subtle flourish of its tail,
the trembling “s”, the opened “o”.
We’re entering Gary,
shuttered car lot, strip club, truck stop.
May I say? she says.
Though I notice with the plumped seat of your “h”
an inclination to comfort, I see in the straight-backed
back, of your “L” an inclination to rigidity,
be aware: so easy to fix!
First frowning, now smiling,
These slanting “T”s may mean a leaning to Jesus, she says—
you could argue this—but with the ample bellies of these
“d”s and “b”s I say think of the Buddha: there’s
a secret kindness wherever you look,
and it’s all on the page plain as day.
Mark Kraushaar has worked as a high school English teacher in Vermont, a pipe welder in Pascagoula, Mississippi, a motel clerk in Boston Massachusetts, a shoe factory worker in London England, a wig salesman in Kentucky, and most recently as an RN in Madison, Wisconsin. He is a recipient of Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Award and has been included in Best American Poetry, the web site Poetry Daily, as well as, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. A full length collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man was published by University of Wisconsin Press, as winner of the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize. His most recent collection, The Uncertainty Principle, published by Waywiser Press, was chosen by James Fenton as winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize.
© 2015 The Antioch Review