The Journey – by Joy Winkler


The driver whistles, sluices his teeth with birdsong,
hefts the bus around the corner,
briefly mounts the pavement
by the Clinic for Cranial Osteopathy.
The woman with a cochlea implant laughs nervously;
a cackling hen, her mouth opening and closing
like a hatchling.

Kenny who calls me my lady, can’t remember names,
is drunk, talks about his job in the steelworks;
a fairy tale a long, long time ago,
a house built of girders, his broken jaw.

I try to sit outside myself, see who I am.

A man gets on with a hat like a nipple.
He has the face of a wart hog, tough grey beard,
long teeth. He sits next to the beautiful boy
who has a streak of lightning tattooed
on his cheek like an angry tear.

The bus races its schedule, tilts on the adverse camber
by the cemetery. Someone squeaks with alarm,
the beautiful boy touches his tattoo as if it’s a talisman.

Kenny announces that his phlegm is the size of hailstones.
They’ve rationed his fags, ordered tests; his booze-edged
breath travels like an oil slick down the gangway.

Getting off the bus is a bare-knuckle ride.
We play chicken with the driver’s sudden application
of brakes. He’s still whistling with the persistence
of a skylark.