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The City of Tacoma and Puget Sound Poetry Presents

The Distinguished Writer Series

June 12th, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

Kings Bookstore, 218 St. Helens, Tacoma WA

Featured Reader: Michael Spence

Open Mic Follows

Michael Spence drove public-transit buses for King County Metro in the Seattle area for thirty years, a job he retired from last Valentine's Day.  His poems have appeared recently in The Hudson Review, Measure, The North American Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and Tampa Review.  New work is forthcoming in The New Criterion and Tar River Poetry.  His latest book, The Bus Driver's Threnody, was released in September 2014 by Truman State University Press.  Last May, he was awarded a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust of Washington State






Onto the Pacific Highway local bus he steps, then stops

When he sees the fare box: Please pay

As you enter.  This seems a riddle he might solve with severe squinting.

He swats his legs for change—the sound

Of no coins clinking their little tinkly music makes him swat some more.

His frown deepens like a trumpet player’s

Blowing and going for a note that won’t be reached.  Now his feet

Take up the beat: shifting foot

To foot like a sliver’s in each one, he smacks the back pockets of his jeans, then


His hands around his jacket, outside

Inside, against his shirt, frisking himself for the crime of being dimeless.

His nose wrinkles as though he smells

An unseen fire scorching him, he’s slapping so hard to put it out,

A powdered bitterness like ash

The taste in his mouth, he’s about to flame up with shame when the driver

Truncates his routine: Just sit down.