All Through the Town (On a Bus in L.A.)
On the train from Long Beach to L.A.
on my way to see Dee Dee Ramone and Peter Lorre
at Hollywood Forever, an announcement crackled
over the loudspeaker: Construction on the tracks
ahead. Compton is the last stop. Disembark there
and catch a bus.
And the train groaned to a stop and the passengers
sighed, and funneled out of the train and formed
two lines – one for a bus that would make every stop
and one for a shuttle going straight to the station
where we could catch another train.
And in line for the shuttle, the man in front of
me talked on his cellphone: He did what to her?
Nuh-uh. You tell him he can’t treat your sister
that way. Hell, tell him he can’t treat any woman
that way. And if he don’t listen, you call me, and I’ll shut
that motherfucker down.
And everyone shuffled on board the shuttle,
and the driver warned us: This is the express bus.
We ain’t stoppin’ ’til we get to the transfer point. We’re goin’
straight to 7th Street. He paused, a beat, then:
Comin’ straight outta Compton. The bus was buoyed
by our laughter.
And the bus floated down the road, and I sat
in the way back, in a section that had been added
on; a miraculous monstrosity of metal and plastic.
Every time we turned a corner it expanded
like the bellows of an accordion. A little girl sang
along to the wheezy song:
And the wheels on the bus go round and round
All through the town
And a teenage boy at the front of the bus stood
to let an elderly woman sit down. And a Japanese
couple sat side-by-side. They had a huge silver suitcase
between them and sometimes, the woman whispered
in the man’s ear and he chuckled low at a joke
the rest of us weren’t in on.
And outside the bus there were streets of pink-painted
bungalows, kids’ bikes propped against purple
jacaranda trees, community gardens of cabbage
and bougainvillea vines; other neighborhoods had closed-down
storefronts and no one around but a woman selling
tamales: cactus, carne, cerdo.
And everyone wished the bus would stop there
So we could dine
And on the bus two young Latinas twined together;
the taller one had two black braids down her back – amorcita
she said, and kissed the shorter girl’s forehead,
and the shorter girl giggle-sighed and blew a bungalow-pink
bubble with her gum, and the whole bus was
their pink sugar love-bubble.
And through the windows of the bus I saw the Hollywood
Hills in the distance, brown and tinder-dry from the drought
and somewhere up on them was the Hollywood sign,
with the Land gone but still sensed like a phantom limb, like
the scent of a starlet’s perfume; a sad, lovely dream of a lost
And a young black man sauntered from the front of the bus
toward the back. He was selling mixtapes and candy bars and
no one wanted his sick beats or sweet treats, except one
middle-aged white lady who wanted a Hershey bar. She gave him
ten bucks and he looted his pockets for change but she said:
It’s okay. Keep it.
On the days when the headlines get to me, I think of that bus
ride: It’s okay, keep it. Amorcita. Dreams of old Hollywood,
tamales and gardens. Tell him he can’t treat women that way. Mixtapes
and sweetness on a laughter-buoyed love-bubble. Straight
And round and round
all over town
By Jessie Lynn McMains
Jessie Lynn McMains (aka Rust Belt Jessie), is the Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin. She has performed spoken word on tour with the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, at FILF in Cleveland, and at Queer Open Mic and Bitchez Nueve in San Francisco, as well as various other places across the US and Canada. She has been publishing her prose and poetry in her own zines since 1994, and her work has also appeared in The Chapess, New Pop Lit,The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Wonderlust Lit Zine, Razorcake, and Word Riot, amongst others. Her short story “Insect Summer” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. She currently writes music reviews and essays for Witchsong. Someone once called her the Debbie Harry of poetry, and she thinks that’s a pretty rad description. If you like, you can also refer to her as the punk rock Edna St. Vincent Millay. She loves music, adventure, community gardens, home-brewed beer, tarot, dancing, playing dress-up, her friends and family, and her four-year-old kidlet. She collects souvenir pennies and stick and poke tattoos. She is perpetually melancholy, restless, and nostalgic. She believes storytelling can change the world. You can find her website at recklesschants.net and her blog at rustbeltjessie.tumblr.com.