Grace Paley’s “In the Bus”

UnknownGod did make a way for me to begin again, aided and abetted by that humanitarian activist poet and short story writer, Grace Paley, whose “In the Bus” continues as a touchstone for me.

She read it at the library in Gardiner, Maine, while she was filling a temporary residency at nearby Bates College. I asked her after the reading if the event related in the poem had actually happened as she wrote it, and she assured me that indeed it had.

In thinking about writing this blog, I wrote

Letter to Grace Paley re “In the Bus.”

I gave away the monograph you autographed for me,
handing it to me as casually as the morning paper.
I treasured that poem and hung it beside
the Regulator clock on our kitchen wall
whose pendulum was a message of time passing

like the content of your poem, which exhorted you
and so, the reader to begin again. Decades have passed
since then, and only the clock remains, the monograph
gone to a young writer, who attributed her writing life
to your inspiration. She herself had sought your signature

breathlessly on a street in P’town, where you were speaker
at a writer’s workshop. That autograph drowned with much
else in a flooding storm, she needed the monograph more
than I who had long ago internalized the poem’s message:
To begin again, and so I did and do.

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