On The Buses

by Marilyn Francis
The Write Idea
Third Place, October 2015
Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson


My first was the 27.
A marvel among the one-a-minute 30s
along the Marylebone Road.

I used to worry
that I would be lost in the fug of bodies
and London Transport upholstery.

That I would forget where to get off
end up at the depot, mislaid.
Unclaimed.

And now the mislaid and unclaimed
spend all-night on buses, sleeping
looping the city streets until dawn

to disembark where they started
and where they will begin again
after dark

on the last bus to nowhere.
On the numberless transport
of the dispossessed.


This deceptively plain-spoken terse poem carries great power and lyricism. The language used to describe riding the bus is unique and the poem is unified through its assonance as in mislaid/unclaimed, and disembarked/ started/ dark and numberless/ dispossessed. We go from focusing on individual numbers and names to the numberless largely invisible, those for whom the buses are a kind of interminable and ironic ‘home.’ The poem is finely controlled and turns in the middle shifting the focus from the speaker to the homeless, the turn on the repetition of “mislaid” and “unclaimed,” leading to a larger vision by illuminating a hidden reality. The harmonics are powerful through heightening the emotion and irony, especially in the final stanza. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

  • March 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Cuttlefish
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Wings
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      gutterball
      by Brenda Morisse
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • February 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Nebraska, Summer
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Goldback Fern
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Negotiatin’ Wi Demons (For wee Rabbie Burns)
      by John J. Williamson
      PenShells