The Poetry Contest
by Mark Kodama
The travelers gathered at the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles, California. An art movie house, once part of the old MGM Studios across the street, featured The Leopard and Sea Wolf. A large granite stone statue of Julius Caesar cast its giant shadow over a small greenish copper statue of Thomas á Beckett. St. Thomas, the turbulent priest of Canterbury, open Bible in left hand and right hand raised to the sky, looked out from the center of the square.
Gentle April showers sprinkled the flowers with life giving water and made the water puddles on black asphalt street shine like little looking-glass ponds. The rain stopped and the skies began to clear. A beam of sunshine broke through the clouds and lit the mitered head of St. Thomas in its bathing light.
The passengers – of all races and creeds in queue — climbed the steps of the bus and then sat down. The driver helped the passengers load their suitcases into the outside baggage compartments underneath the floor of the bus. The engine of the bus rumbled as the smell of burning diesel filled the air.
One passenger carried the Holy Book in one hand and David Hume’s An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding in the other. His t-shirt read Man’s Search for Meaning. A musician furtively peered through his granny eyeglasses and carried his acoustic guitar in a black case. A man in a motor scooter dressed in his green beret dress uniform was lifted by the ramp onto the bus.
The smiling bus driver greeted each of the thirty-one passengers individually as they boarded the bus. When all were settled, the driver stood up, faced his passengers and doffed his beret. He then addressed each of them in his special way:
“Let our challenges be worthy of who we are.
Let our courage be our North Star.
If we use our gifts in service of others,
We will succeed in all our endeavors.
We must embrace life; not fear it.
No task is too great nor mountain too tall.
Let’s go forth with an optimistic spirit,
With the knowledge that love conquers all.
“The passengers are now on board,
Our Greyhound bus will soon depart.
My friends let us make an accord,
Before our adventure starts.
“Las Vegas is far from LA
Let’s have a poetry contest,
To amuse us and pass the day,
At end, we will vote for the best.
“Who’s on deck and who’s in the hole?
Come drop a five spot in my hat.
Tell a tale new; tell a tale old.
Take your best swing when you’re at bat.
“Chaucer’s pilgrims told stories too
On their English religious fest,
We can make our poems anew,
On our American capitalist quest.
“I hope I do not sound untoward,
But I cannot resist to say,
The English pilgrims loved the Lord,
We Americans worship pay.
“My good friends call me Christopher,
I will be your good host and guide,
I am your faithful protector,
Under my aegis you will ride.
“Nine muses please inspire us,
To create works of great beauty
Tales to entertain and teach us,
Of virtue, justice, piety.
“Teach us the Nature of Things
What is the true meaning of life?
What does life offer, what does it bring?
Love, hate, courage, peace, strife.
“I now sing the song I author,
Let the wheel of fortune spin,
God Bless good Geoffery Chaucer,
Let the literary games begin.”
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