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Cantata for Bus and Cellphone

Ten a.m., Haifa Bay bus station

green buses lined up like panting athletes

at the starting line, dirt, diesel fumes

and oil slicks greet passengers sipping coffee

smoking, talking into cell phones

soldiers lean on railings, rifles

and submachine guns slung carelessly

between their legs


Everyone here has cell phones, each with

its own musical overture, the air is so thick

with conversation, you could slice it

with a metronome into scintillating fragments.

  Where are you, you said you would be here at nine?

  She said to me, I said to her, she said to me, the bitch!

  Did you give the children to eat?  And don’t forget your keys again.

and soldiers’ slang repeated everywhere

in acronymic anagrams of military shorthand

that only parents of conscripted children

can attempt to decipher


Here we all commingle, zealots and hobos,

gum-chewing youths with pierced tongues and nostrils,

mothers with bottle-fed babies, all rubbing shoulders

in the rush to go home, back to the base, visit friends

in hospitals; three dozen and more assorted life stories

thrown together for two brief hours into a green, caged

tiger on wheels


The morning paper tells the news that might have been:

a terrorist was captured on his way to explode his body bomb

at the central bus station in Tel-Aviv


Three dozen cell phone users continue their conversations

almost uninterrupted.  They’re used to this routine,

tomorrow they’ll be repeating it again

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© Johnmichael Simon



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