In honor of Mother’s Day, a few days late.
My mom and I happened to be reading the same book of poetry the other day — a hokey anthology of love poems. Amidst 16th Century sonnets and dreary modern odes to love lost, our thumbs grazed this same poem by Wendy Cope. Later, we showed the other the poem, and exclaimed with glee.
I assume we were both drawn to Cope’s vernacular tone. That she sounds like someone talking to you in a bar, voice gravelled with experience. That she sounds like you might sound in a few years, if you get on the wrong bus. The poem’s both a warning, and a conspiratorial nod. We’ve all been at that bus stop. We’ve all boarded the wrong bus. And even when you think you’ve boarded the right one, you realize there is no right one, there are just buses, and views, and you.
You are the variable. You make the journey and the views as what you will.
So, without further ado: here’s “Bloody Men” by Wendy Cope.
Bloody men are like bloody buses –
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destination,
You haven’t much time to decide.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.
This one got me where the best poems get you. The first line reminded me of a Neruda poem I used to read in high school when I was feeling my most despairingly romantic. Ashbery’s rendered same awe for the individual in a metaphor of journeying towards another person, a person who is so much more than a name.
And isn’t that what all relationships are? A journey towards knowing another person, even if, realistically, you can never wholly know another person (unless they’re in a Virginia Woolf book)? Anyway, maybe he’s talking about knowing himself, or another, or whomever. Either way, this poem read like a stroll towards somewhere sweet and mysterious, a place and a not-place, a name and a not-name. A person?
Just Walking Around
What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,
An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive, as you realize once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that the end is near
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.