William Aarnes


The boy hugged his intstrument case.


The woman who’d pulled up

at the bus stop was saying

through her rolled-down window

that she knew his parents,

that everybody knew his parents.


And he was thinking

his parents had told him

never to accept a ride

from a stranger.


                        But this stranger

was a woman who was saying

both this parents’ names.

And then she said his name

and, leaning to open the door,

asked if he was on his way

to his clarinet lesson.



the boy said, “this is an oboe.”


“I bet the oboe’s hard,”

the woman said with a smile

he’d never seen his mother smile,

the woman’s eyes somehow looking

as if nothing in life could be hard.


The door had swung wide.


“Well, why don’t you get in

and tell me where to take you?”


The boy replied, “I’d better not.”

“No, you’re right,” she said;

Never ride with strangers.

Well, then, please shut the door.”


Waiting for the bus,

the boy wished he’d gotten in

but couldn’t recall

if she’d given her name.




William Aarnes’ book, Learning to Dance, was published in 1991 by Ninety-Six Press, which also published his second collection, Predicaments,  in 2001.  His first published poem appeared in FIELD in 1969. Over the years he has had poems published in such magazines as The Southern Review, Poetry, The Shenandoah Review, and The Seneca Review  He teaches at Furman University.