Kimberly Cloutier Green's inaugural
remarks and poem: Bus Stop
April 15, 2013
Good evening everyone and thank you, all, for your vision and support of
this institution, and for the gift and honor of naming me the next in a
line of Poets Laureate – women and men who have lifted up the life of
our community through their commitment to the city, this program, and to
Among the nominees this year are poets whose work has appeared in
literary journals as well as in collections published by Pudding House,
Diamond Press, and Autumn House; one is the senior editor of Café
Review, another is a Maine Literary Fellow. One is a sailor and a
sometime Shoals-dweller, and one is a much-loved newspaper columnist and
radio producer. They share their lives as poets, readers, teachers,
counselors, and collaborators with generous good will, grace, and
dignity. I am deeply honored to have been selected from among this
esteemed group of writers.
I was lucky several years ago to participate in John Perrault’s Voice
and Vision Project, which led me to spend a lot of time observing the
comings and goings at C&J Trailways here in Portsmouth where, at the end
of that year, the painting-poem that the painter Cappy Whelan and I
created was finally installed.
For a glimpse into who we are as people…into what matters to us, into
what we long for and cling to…sit a while in that station – going
nowhere – and watch.
You’ll see parents, children, old friends, and lovers rush and collapse
into each other’s arms, the relief of each reunion a sudden apprehension
of what wholeness feels like; you’ll see how some defend against that
depth of feeling – the small pat on the back, a quiet word or two, the
focus on parking and fumble with bags, and you’ll see the sometimes
subtle, sometimes flagrant ways we hide from one another in our books
and papers, our ipads and phones.
Hardest to see – you have to look closely – is the pain of separation.
We’re shyest here, where the public sphere’s too bright for grief. But
look closely and you’ll see that heartbreak appears first in the eyes…
and we lean in close for the scent of one another, longing to remember
it, for the quiet murmurings we’ll continue to hear after our loved ones
are gone. The wave we wave as the bus pulls away stands in for an animal
Bus stations are threshold places where we glimpse, briefly and
brightly, who we are. Partly this has to do with time… so little time…
so our reunions and leave-takings are forced into high relief.
I like to think of poems as kinds of way station, junctions where for a
brief moment the writer and reader meet and, under pressure of time,
glimpse something true about who we are and why we’re here.
In the next couple of years, together with the PPLP Board and the city’s
many wonderful poets, I hope to explore all our human longings for what
they tell us about what we reach for and what we hope in as a city and
as a community of fellow travelers.
The poem I offer this evening is set in C&J Trailways, that threshold
place. I offer it with gratitude for what a past PPLP project gave to
me, and with pleasure and hope for all that lies ahead.
He’s annoyed behind his paper
by the kid with rosy curls who spins
and spins, her mother unable to still her,
and you’re sure as he checks his watch
he’s thinking it better come soon—
and now she’s singing, God help her,
a tune for the woman in a gold sarong
a song about colors you can’t help humming
until a girl sits next to you who’s scary or sore,
every part of her pierced: her nose, brow and belly,
each stab an adamant wound, gem-red
and strangely Darwinian—
then just as it’s clear you’re headed for extinction
the bus wheezes into its bay like an ark
and you see the driver’s no more than a boy
a happy-faced kid standing too straight
his hand outstretched for your tattered ID
and there’s a moment—only just—
you’re certain you’re going
not south to Boston but west at last
where your long-dead mother waits to greet you
her face still bright, no trouble in her eyes,
your farewell words—I promise, soon—
breaking like a shower of light around her
and as you scan for an empty seat in the back
wondering why it’s distance you keep
when it’s nearness you need, the pierced girl
tucks in beside you offering a stick of gum,
her hurt mouth consoling—Where are you headed, you ask,
a burst of mint on your tongue, and when she says not sure
you know you’ll talk the whole way.