#1 – Voyagers to the West by Liam Day

Illustration by Randolph Pfaff


My mother came from a wind-swept farm,
cows and sheep, a three-room house. I remember
the trips there, cream on the milk. Like her,
aroused by better prospects, others came,

in the thousands, the tens of thousands.
Though Boston’s streets were cow paths and
the bus routes seem as random, there must be
some intent – who gets where, who wins out.

What does the straight shot up Mass. Ave. from
Dudley to Harvard through the Back Bay
tell us? It runs north-northwest, like a trip, say,
from the Gaza Strip to Paris by way of

Monaco’s lush hills, a short skip from the fading
Revivalist station that hasn’t seen a trolley
or a train since they razed the elevated
Orange Line to the white cupolas crowning

the college’s domain. I drank at The Boathouse,
Sports Grille, Bow and Arrow, when done,
ate late night at The Tasty, all gone,
rent control abolished. What I didn’t do:

study or attend class. Now, at the route’s opposite
end, in sight of the medical center where
ambulances rush victims of the city’s violence,
where kids make headlines only for the shots they fire,

I work, worry about the mortgage and occasionally
admire a pink sky, disappointment, I’m sure,
to forebears who scratched a meager life from
a granite outcrop in a callous ocean. They’d have

expected more; I know my mother did. We didn’t
talk for months because I earned less at
my first job than what Harvard’s tuition cost,
spent four years and what my father got when

his mother died to amount to this. So she thought.
When winter settles in, storm follows storm,
snow piles up. City and transit authorities fight
over whose job it is to keep the stops clear,

so the bus stops in the street. Two young mothers
push strollers through the slush, traffic
stuck, snarled for blocks. Riders press against
each other, smell of fried food and wet wool.

Liam Day was born and raised in Boston. After graduating from college, he spent a year playing professional basketball in Northern Ireland. Upon returning to the States, he began teaching and pursuing a master’s degree from the Bread Loaf School of English, from which he graduated in 2004. His poems have appeared in New Beginnings and online at Slow Trains and apt. In 2006, he was a finalist in the Black River Chapbook Competition. Liam currently lives in Boston with his wife. He is the Director of the Boston Area Health Education Center.

Read more MBTA Bus Poems by Liam Day