.

The Number 53: To His Coy Transport

Had we but world enough and time,
My coy and tardy 53,
This hesitancy were no crime
And I’d be waiting patiently.

When other buses came along
I’d not obstruct or block the queue.
If someone barged me in the throng,
Without a word I’d let them through.

And if they trod upon my toes
Or knocked the Smirnoff from my hand,
I’d contemplate my other woes
And try to think it wasn’t planned.

I’d beam at all and try being happy;
I’d dump my surly teenage look.
I’d be polite and never snappy;
I might pretend to read a book!

I’d help old dearies hump their bags
And wheelchairs gently shove on board.
I’d chat to kiddies, mums and dads
So no one ever felt ignored.

And if it rained I wouldn’t mind
Though like a rat I seemed to drown.
I’d smile and never stop being kind—
I’d even turn my music down!

And all these things and more I’d do
Had we two but the time to spare.
No matter how long overdue
I’d wait for you and wouldn’t care.

But in my ear I always hear
My mum creating on the phone.
She’ll ground me for a week, I fear,
At ten o’clock if I’m not home.

.

creating: getting angry

.

.

Paul Martin Freeman is an art dealer in London. His book, A Chocolate Box Menagerie, is published by New English Review Press. The poem is from The Bus Poems: A Tale of the Devil, currently in preparation, and was first published on the New English Review website.


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24 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    A delightful spoof ! A few bumps along the way, but – that’s life.

    Take a look at my bio, ” Gypsy At The Carnival Of Life” on this site if you have time. I hope you do, because I think we share a sense of nonsense, as well as an interest in art, and would like to know you better.

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Thank you, Sally. You may be right about nonsense: it’s sometimes the only thing that makes sense! I read your bio. You’re someone for whom art and poetry are lifelong passions. You are the real thing. I, on the other hand, fell into dealing out of necessity, while writing verse I only discovered in later life as an enjoyable way of passing the time.

      You mention “a few bumps” and I would really like to know what you are thinking of. Please feel free to criticise anything of mine. This is how we learn.

      I extend this offer to any SCP member reading this.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        I would expect no less from someone such as you. Thanks for your kind words on what I’ve done.

        I really hate doing this, as, though I knew it is the right thing to do and you do appear to have been another blindsided being such as myself, well – here goes:

        Things that bothered me:

        Too many I’d’s in the last eight stanzas. Some of these could be stated in other ways. This happens to everyone, and sometimes you cannot catch it in the first draft. My power is going off and on so will finish this later. Please excuse typos.

      • Paul Martin Freeman

        Hello Sally, First of all, please don’t feel uncomfortable about offering advice: it is gratefully received. The danger inherent in working alone is falling into complacency and not improving. Opportunities like this are to be grabbed with both hands.

        As for your point about the I’ds, I can see what you mean (in both senses). The poem is not made more elegant by them. There are so many oppressing you you might begin to feel like poor Julius Caesar! But the question then becomes, how to list all the things the youth would do by replacing some of them. And all I can come up with would be to change the ones beginning the second and fourth lines of stanza 4 with “and”. But that would leave a succession of four pairs of lines beginning “I’d” and “and”. So the question now is, is it better to be stabbed to death or bored to death!

        On the other hand, when I wrote that succession of I’ds in stanza 4, which is where we notice them most, I was trying to convey the feeling of the young man getting into his stride, breathlessly imagining all the things he would do. So there was a purpose also behind the repetition.

  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    I might say you are “on a roll” with another bus and transport poem. If I am not mistaken, you have had more bus related poems published by SCP. Fun to read with wonderment at what some of your thoughts must be.

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Hello Roy. Thank you for your comment. Yes, it’s from the book I’m working on which began with the idea of writing a poem for every London bus route. It’s turned out to be a rather fruitful challenge, forcing me to dig deep to come up with something each time.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    Clever and amusing use of Marvell’s classic about waiting for a lady’s consent. Detailed characterization of the thoughtful but time-wasting teenager, by telling all the courteous things he probably does NOT do in his impatience for arrival of the bus. This method very discreetly suggests the advisability of doing those things, as he indeed has time for them before the long-desired bus makes her appearance. Good descriptive monologue with hidden moral!

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Thank you, Margaret. As usual, you show me things in my verses I hadn’t thought of or properly understood myself!

      Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    I like the two very adept syntactical inversions in this poem:

    line 18: And wheelchairs gently shove on board.
    line 32: At ten o’clock if I’m not home.

    In a comic poem of tetrameters, inversions are not just necessary on occasion to maintain the rhyme, but they also add a touch of playfulness.

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Thank you, Joe. That’s very interesting. It’s technical tips like this that are so helpful.

      Reply
  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Paul, what a wonderful and skillfully woven poem… a poem that takes me back to times of waiting impatiently for London buses… a long wait, always resulting in the arrival of three at once! I love the metaphysical nod to Marvell. Thank you for the huge smile!

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Thank you, Susan. Your praise I always value.

      I don’t possess the rich poetic gifts with which you and others who have commented have been endowed. My method is to think of a first line, then listen to it––over and over if necessary––until I have a second one, and so on. If it works, that should produce a seamless development as what the poem’s about emerges and I can take more control.

      And yes, things haven’t changed much since you moved to Texas. They still comes in threes!

      Reply
  6. jd

    Enjoyed very much, Paul. As you are asking for
    suggestions, why not berating instead of creating
    since the former needs no explanation? I liked the poem for all the good reasons mentioned above but would also like to know about Sally’s perceived “bumps”.

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      Thank you, jd. And thank you for the suggestion.

      I take your point about “creating”, which is British English. And “berate” is a really a good match both for meaning and rhyme. However, I think “berate” can only be used transitively. Also, “create”, in the sense of kicking up a fuss (creating a fuss), is very much an expression of that age group to describe what their parents do on such occasions and doesn’t require an object.

      Reply
      • jd

        Thank YOU, Paul, for the lesson in grammar which I’d long forgotten.

  7. Sally Cook

    People have a tendency to gather in herds. You may see a Medical,, Academic herd, or observe a herd of poetsl. Every herd has rules. In a herd of ballet dancers rules take the form of positions .yo ruuls are steps.observe steps. In a herd of Herds are comfortable places where everyone knows what to say and how to say it.
    Over – repetition of a word is never a good thing,even in a herd. First, it is opposite of imaginative. There are always new ways to say something, and the reader will inevitably know or sense that.

    Sorry, I cannot buy that your I’ds were deliberate. Rather, I believe you came up with that after the fact. Stop protecting the I’ds ! ! ~ It is not worthy of you – it is just your
    Sly Fox coming out.

    Insitead, take on the challenge to say things others either can’t say differently or won’t bother to try.
    Most in any herd will go along to get along. Don’t ! You will aa better poet for it.

    You already know I am willing to make a fool of myself in the name of poetry. Stretch just a little more and you will become the poet I think you can be

    Reply
    • Paul Martin Freeman

      You pay me a huge compliment, Sally, of which I have to prove myself worthy. So who’s the Sly Fox now?!

      I hope you think this version is better, and that this time it’s properly Cooked and Sallyfied.

      The Number 53: To His Coy Transport

      Had we but world enough and time,
      My coy and tardy 53,
      This hesitancy were no crime
      And I’d be waiting patiently.

      When other buses came along
      I wouldn’t try to hog the queue.
      If any barged me in the throng
      Like Pharaoh’s Sea I’d let them through.

      And should they tread upon my toes
      Or knock the Smirnoff from my hand,
      I’d contemplate my other woes,
      Deciding none of it was planned.

      I’d beam at all and try being kindly—
      You’d never see a surly look!
      And if I had to, might resignedly
      Pretend to read a stupid book.

      I’d help old dearies hump their bags
      And wheelchairs gently shove on board,
      Extolling toddlers, mum and dads
      So no one ever felt ignored.

      And if it rained I wouldn’t mind
      Though like old Pharaoh seemed to drown.
      I’d smile and never stop being kind—
      I might just turn my music down!

      And all these things and more I’d do
      Had we two but the time to spare.
      No matter how long overdue
      With dreams of you I wouldn’t care.

      But in my ear I always hear
      My mum creating on the phone.
      She’ll ground me for a week, I fear,
      At ten o’clock if I’m not home.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Paul, this is infinitely improved. Your love affair with the Id’es is definitely out of date. ‘Passe;. Finito. Out Of Date..
        These I”ds have been zeroed out and I say, good riddance to them.

        I admit it, you have out-foxed me !.

        Naturally, I would have done some things differently.. Isn’t that
        ‘always the way?

  8. Paul Martin Freeman

    Dear Sally,

    I’ll take that exactly as you write it. For which thank you, and thank you for pushing me to do better. The lesson to take away is that there are certain conventions for which there is never a justification for transgressing.

    However, it’s clear you’re not completely happy. If you were to elaborate, you would find here only willingness to listen.

    This is how we were taught to make progress. Which is why we do this.

    Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      The bumps all come under the heading of Tone, and are places where graceful meter has not appeared, a sort of singing rhythm heen left out. So difficult to describe —
      Can’t do any more rright now.
      We will talk

      Reply

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