Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Holding for dear life.

I was never sure
what to do
whom to tell
what to say, or 
if I should have pulled the emergency bell
on those days
when someone got too close for comfort
on the bus.

The ride itself wasn't scary
but the passengers 
smelled of places I had never been to
eating fruit I didn't recognize
taking more space than was allowed.

What was a simple exercise
going to and from school
into something else 
for a girl like me, in a uniform
that spelled the school name and its address. 

Sitting straight and tall
I memorized the stops
to liberty
holding tightly to the emergency string
the only thing between me and alien prowlers.


  1. Rosaria, I love your poetry. What is the backstory for this poem? I see a girl in LA going to Catholic school riding on a city bus with immigrants or at least mixed ethnic groups.

    When I was younger, living in a very white neighborhood, going to a very white school, I also would have had the same feelings. Especially if I think of riding into an urban area. In fact, the urban area alone would have frightened me. I also would have been keeping my eye on that string if I weren't hanging on to it.

  2. Oh to remember things that use to scare us when we was growing up. I would have too held on to dear life to that string like it was your life line.

  3. I can see you sitting there, anxiety on your face, pulling your body in to take up less space yourself. I grew up in one place, knew everybody, and never had that experience when I was young. Yet, I recognize it.

  4. Was this when you first came to America?

  5. We can all see this,in any country, actually. I began with a feeling I had when I had to take the bus on my own. I was also thinking about any girl who has been raised in a close setting, what she comes to believe, how she feels invaded, how everything around feels alien.

    Thanks for your visit.

  6. I sit here wondering how to best describe my reaction to this, Roasaria, thinking that the simplicity of it is what makes me feel ilke it's me on that bus, and feeling exactly what you do/did. I avoid poetry that I have to interpret and some seems contrived, but yours is lovely. Rather like an Alice Munro story in miniature. .

  7. So vivid, Rosaria, I feel alive reading this, there with you on the seat. Why are our senses so alive when we are young? So intense, and often creating fear.

  8. these words paint such an arresting image of youth, discovery and vulnerability. as ruth said, i felt as if i was sitting next to you on that seat. this brings back memories of my own girlhood when i had similar experiences taking the train and then tube into london. the strangers nearby whose intent you don't know, the unidentifiable fruit.....and that statement about holding tightly to the emergency string.....yes. i know this. thank you for sharing this memory.

  9. This takes me straight back to my shy and uncertain younger self, Rosaria. Even though I only travelled from a little village into a small town to school I was often wary and unsure like this, though i could never express it as you have done.

  10. there's nothing much between us and them, rosaria. we've got to live through the fear, always.

    i like to think of you young like this, pushing boundaries.