Depot

Depot

Gary Beck

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is not crowded
at midnight. The night labourers going home
to small houses in New Jersey, the servicemen displaced
in their uniforms, returning to bases, the teenagers
in couples, or in noisy herds, huddling together,
bellowing about some glorious incident of the exciting
evening in 'Sin City,' the shabby loiterers, leftovers
from another age, standing with hands in pockets,
looking for tomorrows, and the eternal cripple of all
public places, dragging a reluctant body to somewhere,
blinded by yesterdays. They are the poem of the midnight
bus depot of cities.

The shops of unfriendly store keepers, swallowed
by too many thousands in a hurry, are closed, along
with their flowers, books, cigarettes, liquor, drugs,
all to speed you on your way and ease you through
another day. The huge rush-hour crowds are gone, with no sign
of their passing, but gum-wrappers, cigarette butts,
trash, left by what hand? what face? in this drab
funnel to another place. The gays lurking
in the public toilets, fearful of violence, but wooing it in
their pitiful trust in luck, as they fulfill some need
in a passing suck. The gravel-voices announcing
departures in indifferent mumbles, directing
to so many gates, people nowhere bound, blindly hoping
to be found. Too warm, or too cold, walls too bare,
a functional driveway of directions, and everywhere
people untouched by loveliness, leaving no mark, or
monument, pushing, sweating, arguing, farting,
rushing, rushing, eyes closed to imaginings -- except
for frantic fantasies of sex, sleep, food, any detour
from the starkness of this place, the midnight
bus depot of cities.

Where do they go, the faceless thousands who step up
to the ticket counter, pushing money through
the slotted windows, mumbling a name to a tired clerk
in shirtsleeves, pushing buttons on an aging machine
that suddenly produces a ticket, to where? A thousand
towns, villages and cities conjured to existence in
this dark, consuming depot, by the restless fingers
of a bored clerk. What do they do in the towns
and cities? Are they returning home defeated by the great
disinterest of the city, to remain? Or to lick
their wounds and venture out again? Visiting family,
friends, a school holiday, vacation, some loved-
or unloved one's funeral, a new job or home,
a salesman conserving expenses, or someone drawn across
this land by the strangeness and mystery of a name
of a village, town, or city displayed at midnight
in the bus depot of cities
.