A May Fly has no mouth, no
digestive parts. It is born to mate, one
day of dancing in the sun, rising
on iridescent wings, and then falling,
exhausted into the water; dying
it releases eggs that wait, unconscious
until a year passes, and another party begins.
They go by in the muggy, soon-to-be
summer evening, still May,
on their bicycles, in their helmets,
the father out in front, large as fatherhood’s
authority, the mother following
with the baby in the Burley trailer,
the little girl on her little bike,
and on the sidewalk under the magnolia,
the small boy scraping his training wheels
like mad, catching up to the dad,
and I suddenly see them––my life––
the cycle of it. They are a phase, and
I am another phase. I was there once,
and now I think I was happy, and
everything in between is just a moment.
SOMETIMES AN ANGEL
Rain pounds through the downspouts; we are all looking for an ark.
Lilies shine in the gloom and drink the rain.
Sometimes a person will return to your life
and remind you of a great hurt to your heart. An angel
inviting you to forgive.
And the rain sheds loud, heaving tears.
There was a time we didn't have a child and then we did.
It was summer; I remember driving up into the brown hills
toward Napa, a passenger, as the child was a passenger
in my womb; and I see that narrow road, scrub oak
on either side, as a border dividing my life into two parts:
a time of freedom and a time of never-ending responsibility.
A blurry figure on a bicycle speeds by; flooded earthworms
lie drowned on the walk.
(First pub. in Pirene's Fountain)
—Nancy Haskett, Modesto
the two bicycles
stood next to each other
just inside the garage,
a heavy chain threaded
over, through, around,
the ends padlocked together—
until that one day
of careless nonchalance
when the door was up,
the chain was off,
an open invitation
too hard to resist.
I’d like to think the thief
didn’t rush off to sell
the bike at a flea market,
wanted instead to sit
atop the cushioned seat,
shift the gears on small inclines,
feel the wind on his face
as he rides along the canal
as we used to do.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
In the one picture I have left of you
you turn a didactic back…More evident,
the fiesta mood—you’re traffic-copping tricycles.
Your bangled wrists, as if to the skipping theme
of “Ding Dong School” or “Romper Room,” send palms
aslap in a Kodak blur. Hips schoolmarm-calm,
hair lightly permed, your bent, your whole intent
is for letting us three boys train-track down the pine-
board floors upon wheels that clunk. We whee and whoo
through homespun cyclones, lusting for Popsicles.
Progressive Education proudly thrives:
No silly songs while this kid-carousel may scurry on.
Our Long Plays centrifuge hot Khachaturian.
The Saber Dance in xylophones unhives!
Your blouse, photo-gray now, whispers Mommy’s nice,
in blue and orange notes, with birds-of-paradise.
In this commune of sheep, who would nurse
the newborn speckled lamb whose natural
mother bleats ignorance, gazes at the horizon,
then moves off to graze sparse January
grass? Who’s responsible for an unasked-for
child? Her lamblet rocks to his feet, finds
her flank, searches for the teat. She flicks him
away, a pesky winter fly. There’s grass,
but barely, for the sheep. At dusk, a man
shakes his grain-bucket, calls them
to the barnyard; shuts the gate against
coyotes. What does he know of shepherding
splendor through a freezing night? Who
attends the fragile newborn, the stranger,
the unasked-for poet? What midnight sun
might hold this lamb from dark to daylight?
My shepherd-dog knows nothing
of herding or caring for a flock.
But when the mother-ewe wanders
away toward whatever lights
a sheep’s eye, leaving her child
between field and forest
the ghosts of lambs—
my dog seeks the baby out.
Is he drawn by scent curiosity
or sweetness, or a dog’s higher truth?
And see how, abruptly, now
the lamb’s a candle to his mother’s eye.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Only a few of us are born with wheels.
Until that spitfire-red bike, she needed fancy
to buy such freedom. But now her father
finds the Hornet leaning against a fencepost
where field shades into forest. Blame
two wheels to convey a child so far from home.
What was she thinking, to leave her bike
at woods’ edge like a portal to another world?
Does she think elves live here, and might
be frightened by the singing spinning silver?
Is she sure that elves are friendly?
From a leafless branch, a robin utters the first
letter of not-quite-spring—flimsy line of day-
light above the rooftops. Token of possibility,
two bicycles rest against a bench as centerpiece
of the courtyard. How little profit to that old
man living like an idle king at the top of a flight
of stairs. Some would call him crazy. But he
flings open his window, and in shines morning.
On courtyard cobble, a student straps his books
to his bike and pedals off to find his fortune.
The neon I is burned out
at the SLANDER MOTEL—one-night
island in the middle of desert
dark lit by tracers of headlights,
brakelights, necklace interchanges,
quick-stops, billboards for
shoes, roses, sparkle.
But the seeing I is burned out,
and in a room on the
ground floor, someone is
trying to trim his soul
for a candle-wick
as we whiz by in the north-
bound dark. Next stop: Cordelia
—JoAnn Anglin, Sacramento
The bicyclist races with herself
Angles around corners, loves
How going downhill pulls back
The sides of her face, is drawn
through a dance where the rhythm
keeps changing But she is keeping up
keeping up dares trains and trucks
Everything she passes recedes
Dissolving begins + she eats time
and wind, peripheral visions stream
goals flash past like sharks, sparing her,
eating the liquid markers of her day
Our thanks to today's contributors, some of whom will be having work included in the upcoming issue of Rattlesnake Press's WTF, due to be released at Luna's Cafe on Feb. 19. JoAnn Anglin's "Wheeling" was so appropriate to our current Seed of the Week (Trikes and Bikes) that I couldn't resist a sneak preview. Thanks, JoAnn!