This poem featured as the second poem in Cope’s collection, Serious Concerns, from 2002. It is highly representative of the clever nature of much of Cope’s poetry and her interest in modern issues (in this case, dating). The poem is quite short, only 12 lines long, but is filled with examples of figurative language that make it very interesting to analyze.
Explore Bloody Men
‘Bloody Men’ by Wendy Cope is a short, effective poem that compares waiting for a bus to waiting for a man.
The poet uses three short stanzas to describe how buses and men are similar. You may find yourself waiting for a long time before a bus or a man shows up. When one does, you may find that more than one bus or man appears at the same time.
You don’t have very long to choose between them and your actions, undoubtedly, have consequences. You’ll have to ride a bus for at least one stop or see a man for a short period of time before ending the relationship or getting off the bus. Then, you’re likely to find yourself back on the street waiting for another suitable bus or man to appear.
You can read the full poem here.
The main theme of this poem is relationships. The poet uses a creative metaphor to compare relationships with men to waiting for a city bus. One might find themselves waiting for a very long period of time before the right bus or the right man shows up. Then, one is faced with the decision of whether or not they want to actually get on the bus or spend any time with the man in question.
Structure and Form
‘Bloody Men’ by Wendy Cope is a three-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. The poem follows a simple rhyme scheme of ABCB; changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. This is a very common rhyme scheme and is often associated with ballads.
Besides this, the poem is written in a very contemporary style, using causal language and allusions (as though someone is having a colloquial conversation with another person) to convey a message. There is also some degree of humor in this poem (seen through the odd nature of the conceit) that makes it feel casual as well.
Cope uses a few different literary devices in this poem. They include:
- Hyperbole: an intentionally exaggerated description. For example, the poet writes that one will end up waiting for a “year” for a bus.
- Extended Metaphor: is a comparison between two things that does not use the word “like” or the word “as.” Extended metaphors run for more than one line. In this case, the poet uses the entire poem to compare men to buses.
- Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “You” or “You’re” begins four of the twelve lines of the poem.
- Enjambment: occurs when a poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, “You wait for about a year /And as soon as one approaches your stop.”
Bloody men are like bloody buses—
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.
In the first lines of ‘Bloody Men,’ the speaker, a woman, begins by describing the experience of waiting for a bus. She compares this to the exhausting experience (conveyed through the use of the word “bloody”) of waiting for a man. In fact, throughout the entire poem, she uses a creative, unexpected metaphor (or a conceit) to compare men to buses.
Waiting for a man to turn up (someone who suits the woman’s hopes and desires) is much the same as waiting for the right bus to appear. Others might pass that have different destinations, that are too full, or that simply don’t stop.
Waiting for a man/bus can feel like a long, drawn-out process, she adds. She uses an example of hyperbole to emphasize how long one might feel as though they are waiting for a bus. Even though it might be minutes, or if you’re unlucky hours, it might feel like a year. But, when this same phrase is applied to men, waiting a year or more for the right person is certainly not unusual.
In the last part of this stanza, the poet alludes to the ways that traffic can cause the buses to bunch up around each other. While one is waiting for a bus to appear, it may eventually show up along with another bus on the same route. This may cause feelings of indecision as one is forced to choose between the buses, as one would be forced to choose between men.
You look at them flashing their indicators,
You haven’t much time to decide.
Staying in the moment when a bus arrives to a long-waiting female passenger, the poet describes her speaker looking at the buses, or the men, and the various things they have to offer. One will consider how full the buses are, where they’re going, and more.
In the same way, when several male suitors present themselves, a woman will consider their various pros and cons and, as the poet writes, their “destination.”
By destination, the poet is alluding to a man’s intentions. What are the man’s goals for a single date/night or his plans for the future? Is he looking for a serious relationship or something more temporary?
In this situation, with which many readers are likely to sympathize, one does not have very much time to decide, and it is very easy to make the wrong choice. You may end up getting on the wrong bus or choosing the wrong man and suffering the consequences.
If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
And the minutes, the hours, the days.
The last quatrain of the poem concludes this creative conceit by discussing mistakes. The speaker notes that if you choose the wrong bus or the wrong man, there’s no turning back. You have to ride the bus, at least to the next stop, before getting off.
If you choose the wrong man, you’re stuck with him for at least a short period of time until you can get out of the relationship or away from the date.
When you get off the metaphorical bus, you’ll be back on the street staring at the road and watching the “cars and the taxis and lorries” as they drive by and feeling the “minutes, the hours, the days” as they pass. This is an allusion to growing older and potentially running out of time to find the person that you want to be with. It also implies feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Cope compares men to buses in ‘Bloody Men.’ She uses a clear example of an extended metaphor to depict the similarities between the two.
The message of ‘Bloody Men’ is that dating is not easy, nor is it easy to judge on first appearances or a first meeting. The speaker alludes to how fast one has to jump into or avoid a relationship and how difficult it can be to make that decision when it needs to be made.
Cope likely wrote this poem in order to express her opinion on what it’s like for the right man to turn up in one’s life. She uses the city bus metaphor because many readers will be very familiar with the tiring and irritating process of waiting for the right bus to take you to your destination.
The poem ‘Bloody Men’ is about how difficult finding a good man, or the right man for an individual, can be. It uses a bus metaphor to compare the wait for the right man to turn up to the wait for the right bus.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Wendy Cope poems. For example:
- ‘1st Date She and 1st Date He’ – shows the different experiences of a man and a woman.
- ‘After Lunch’ – is a monologue delivered after a first date while crossing Waterloo Bridge.
- ‘Another Valentine’ – explores the definition of Valentine’s Day.