I am seven.
My bike is passed-down, passed around, bent up and beat up
but it rolls
And when you’re eight that’s all that really matters.
Golden broomsedge ripples in heat,
shimmers in the vacant lot;
lines the road and closes its petals in resignation.
It is August.
I am riding around our block,
along the sidewalk in front of the houses
and kept gardens and trees bending
under the weight of ripe damsons.
Tar bubbles glisten like my mother’s jet earrings
and pop under my tires,
like hot applesauce on the Tappan stove
in Grandma Compton’s kitchen.
I pass behind her house,
her orchard of apple trees as old as she is,
Then to the gravel road and the old dump
Where concrete chunks provide habitat for dragonflies and bamboo,
a hiding place
for girls with sweaty hair and bare feet.
I watch the dragonflies skim over algae-green puddles
And dream of flying, cool in the water’s reflection,
Into the shadows of hidden places where my mother’s voice
Will not reach me.
Back on my bike I ride
Into the shadow of mulberries, maples, apples and ash.
Dust turns me golden, ghost-like,
a mirage that shimmers
in five o’clock heat.
It is 1958.
On a back road in a small town all that matters
is flying, flying,
my sunburnt hair streaming behind
my face pushing eagerly ahead
while all the world is rushing by.
This poem was inspired by pulling words out of a bag of paper strips. Each strip contained a different word or phrase--in this case the words I pulled out were blue-flowered chicory, damsons, heat shimmers, bamboo and tar bubbles. Immediately I was back on my rattling bike, riding on a dirt road in mid-August. Funny how words can do that.