The Number 53: To His Coy Transport


by Paul Freeman (December 2022)


Had we but world enough and time,
My coy and tardy 53,
This hesitancy were no crime
And I’d be waiting patiently.

When other buses came along
I’d not obstruct or block the queue.
If someone barged me in the throng
Without a word I’d let them through.

And if they trod upon my toes
Or knocked the vodka from my hand,
I’d contemplate my other woes
And try to think it wasn’t planned.

I’d beam at all and try being happy;
I’d dump my surly teenage look.
I’d be polite and not be snappy:
I might pretend to read a book!

I’d help old dearies hump their bags
And wheelchairs gently shove on board.
I’d chat to kiddies, mums and dads
So no one ever felt ignored.

And if it rained I wouldn’t mind
Though like a rat I seemed to drown.
I’d smile and never stop being kind—
I’d even turn my music down!

And all these things and more I’d do
Had we two but the time to spare.
No matter how long overdue
I’d wait for you and wouldn’t care.

But in my ear I always hear
My mum creating on the phone.
She’ll ground me for a week, I fear,
At ten o’clock if I’m not home.



Table of Contents


Paul Freeman is an art dealer in London. The poem is from The Bus Poems: A Tale of the Devil, currently in preparation. His book, A Chocolate Box Menagerie, is published by New English Review Press and is available here.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

5 Responses

  1. Does the no. 53 always cruise in gangs of three, like the double-deckers of yore that I remember? Time’s wingèd chariot was probably just in less of a hurry back in the 196Os.
    A delightful poem in any case!

  2. Hmmm. Blaming your past lack of manners on public transportation on you mother! Is that nice — even if true??? And IS it true???

    1. As you very well know, mothers are always the source of all young men’s problems. Either, as is more likely, they love their sons too much or else not enough. If, on the other hand, they do love them the right amount––which occasionally happens––then they love them in the wrong way.

      Myself, I’ve had the rare privilege of being both loved too much and not enough, and also in the wrong way when it was the right amount. And all at the same time.

      As for public transportation, I can honestly state I have never been loved by any double decker bus. Although I live in hope.

      Thank you for your enquiry.

  3. Lovely poem. Love your response to Lev. The 146 runs well here as do most…most of the time…EXCEPT in the summer because it takes one to all the museums along the lake, that and parades and and and…need to be ready to pivot to another route. Long ago and far away a young man fell in like with me on a bus route, and he would call and play blue Spanish eyes on the piano…

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