by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

At 5.56, some glitch, some distraction,
some finger twitch, slips the phone
from her grip and sends it smashing
into the pavement. We all flinch.

Soon, the bus jolts us through streets
and suburbs and into the dark.
Night makes a mirror of the window
and makes me a spy. I sit behind her and pry.

I watch her fingers slide over the fractured glass,
jabbing the lattice of cracks where the clock’s
digits progress, still, splintered italics eclipsing
the child’s smile, his face grown suddenly lined.

A little ink begins to leak from the rifts.
It grows dark. Oh, it grows dark and darker.
Take us back, driver.
Lurch this bus into reverse.

As a conservator rewinds lines
from a painting’s tempera eyes,
bring us back. Let her lift her phone
from the path, unharmed.

Let her shiver, check the time,
sigh at the child’s smile,
slide the phone back in her pocket,
its digits slipping to 5.59.