Route #6

by Allison Cummings

Sharon gets up at four to begin
the route by six.
The coffee room is cold.
Other drivers nod,
silent in their jackets.
They file out, rev up till fumes fill the dock,
glide out of bays and into the city.
She drives those who can’t—
old folks from section 8,
a girl in a droopy blue coat
running late to a temp job,
the muscled young vet
pinned in a rolling chair,
watching the handicap lift
yawn slowly to the curb.
His shirt and eyes match the sky
but his right wheel catches the door.
He flushes and looks away.
Spits motherfucker at the blast in his skull,
the pitying eyes of the bus,
this life he must decide to live or leave.

She could summon the yellow balloons
of early birthdays to tendril his shoulders
and legs and lift him free,
or claim that he paused to watch
the passengers’ vision of transfiguration,
but she knows only that in the rear-view mirror
everyone kept breathing, as though
they might all set up house in limbo.
Then a plane flew low overhead,
wheels uncurling from its torso,
and he sighed and took the ride.
She ferries them all across the river,
collecting coins from their mouths
as they descend
into the flame-stricken air.