POEM: old bikes

old bikes

bicycles rest against the old wooden shed
pedals holding memories of who knows how many feet
seats waiting for riders who’ll never return

weeds are coming up through the spokes
winding their way around the chains
nature claiming the spoils of blind progress

a few miles away cars roar along the new bypass
driven by the children who rode these bikes
until they traded in adventure for security

I walk past this treasure trove every day
quietly making plans for a midnight raid
to liberate these prisoners from their weedy jail

I’ll clean them and oil them and put air in the tires
then I’ll offer them for free to anyone
who wants to know how it feels to fly

10 October 2013
Oak Street

POEM: divide

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divide

Salida
Pie Town
Brush Mountain Lodge
the basin
Antelope Wells
chances are small
I’ll ever have a burger
or fix a flat
in any of these places
but I ride a line
through the mountains
every year
climbing and descending
with a host of
disembodied voices and
a collection of blue dots

1 July 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

Today’s poem is inspired by the Tour Divide mountain bike race and the call-ins on MTBCast.

Photo Credit: Tour Divide Facebook page

POEM: intersections

intersections

1.
this morning I rode my bike
through the intersection of
49th Street and 7th Ave in Brooklyn
remembered last summer
stopped at that same corner
waiting to make a left
meathead in a muscle car
whips out around a turning truck
flies toward me going 50 in a 30
I’m trapped in the amber moment
watching the grill of his car
make its appointment
with the front wheel of my bike
and then, inevitably, with my
bones and muscles and nerves
and skin and blood
but it turns out the meathead
is a skillful idiot
taps his brakes just enough
to swerve at the last second
leaving me shaking in the intersection
as close as I’ve ever come to death

2.
summer 2001, Rochester, New York
I’m in the car giving my grandparents
a tour of our new neighborhood
a mother and her young daughter
are biking through an intersection
when a truck speeds past
knocks the little one into the air
she crunches onto the pavement
I’m dialing 911 as I run
I tell her shocked mother
the ambulance is on the way
ask what else I can do
she gives me her house keys
asks me to get her young son
from their house up the block
I bring him back, his hand in mine
the ambulance has arrived
my grandparents and I drive away
years later I invite a friend
to write about a cycling experience
for my new website
she writes about the time in 2001
when her daughter was struck by a car
while riding through an intersection
turns out my friend is that woman
from all those years ago
neither of us had realized it
everyone is okay
and we all still ride bikes

29 March 2012
Brooklyn NY

/ / /

The incidents in question:

POEM: Idaho

Listen to this poem using the player above.

I wrote a lot of poetry during my recent trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the poems was inspired by meeting bicycle adventurer Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie, and reading his first book, Metal Cowboy: Ten Years Further Down the Road Less Pedaled.

With Joe Kurmaskie in Chattanooga, TN. Photo by Lois Chaplin.

Idaho
for Joe Kurmaskie

on this rainy Idaho morning
I give you a name
I tap your destiny
with my white cane

have you reckoned
a thousand miles much?
have you packed a bag
and left all else behind?

with the legs as the only engine
you can hear what is there to hear
the whispering of spirits on the roadside
singing the world into being

POEM: this two-wheeled life

Listen to this poem using the player above.

this two-wheeled life

all I could think about
as I sucked in diesel fumes
on 80 East was how much
I’d rather be riding my bike

how it was time to sever
the steel shackles
of my automotive life
to take to two wheels

as my creed, my gospel
my response to every
yelled curse and flung
container of french fries

I would yell “you first!”
when told to get off the road
would carry a lance
to joust with those

who referred to me by its name
and like Quixote before me
I would tilt – not at windmills,
but at the ceaseless turning

of the four-wheeled apocalypse
because there are more kinds of freedom
than choosing the radio station
and more kinds of individuality

than spinning rims and fuzzy dice
I would recapture
that nearly forgotten thrill
of being my own master

not a slave to the poisoners
of the Gulf, the savage
inequality of fossil fuels
they are better returned

to their undersea beds
to lie and sleep
to be forgotten as we zoom
and glide through this two-wheeled life