Thursday, November 18, 2021

Crashes: Fast, Soft, Slow, Hard


Blue Velvet
—Poetry and Visuals by Smith (Steven B. Smith), Cleveland, OH

(as told to and transcribed by Lady K)

The Fast, Soft Crash

After they repossessed my car
I needed wheels
decided to buy a motorcycle
always wanted a motorcycle

so I walked in   
and bought a 750 Kawasaki
I think 1977,
which is basically
450 lbs of metal on an
incredibly huge engine

After the papers were signed
The salesman took me out to the
motorcycle and
You should have seen his face
when he realized
I had never been on one before


he was torn cuz
he was worried about me and concerned
but he also wanted to make the money

he showed me how to turn it on
and work the pedals
I practiced going around
the parking lot several times
sort of got the hang of it
and I took off up Rte. 37


about 4 miles later,
the bike dies

I don't know anything about mechanics
I didn't know anything about the bike
I didn't know what was going on
I was mystified

eventually some guy stops
shows me I hadn't been using
this gas switch so I was
using up reserve

anyway I'm going up 37 and
it's a gorgeous summer day—
I mean beautiful—
37's a two-lane highway
going through Michigan
it's up and down
and up and down with all these
gentle dips

there's a lot of traffic
because it's a holiday

so I'm on my first motorcycle ride ever
feeling really good
I'm zipping past all these cars
and at one point I look ahead
it's clear
I figure
I can pass about 7 cars
so I pull out
and I'm going a little over 100 miles an hour
when this car pops up in front of me
out of one of the little dips

I could even see the driver's
eyebrows go up—you know—
I'm that close—

so I purposefully leave the road
Upward Bound

I mean I can't hit the man
It wouldn't be right
so I leave the highway
at a little over 100 miles an hour

in the air
at one point
this is just so magic peaceful

at one point I'm upside down
in the air

I mean my feet are up over my head
my hands are on the motorcycle bars
the motorcycle's beneath me
we're flying through the air
it's so peaceful it's almost like
it's slow motion

there's no panic no nothin’
and I'm thinking I don't want
to be holding the motorcycle when
it hits,

so I let loose

there's no sound
I don't hear anything
I don't feel the breeze
it's almost like I'm in a silent movie

a slow-motion silent movie
so the bike hits
it's in meadow field
later on I hit in the grass
roll over a lot

I get up and have
3 tiny teeny scratches on my side
I walk back to the bike,
pick it up,
no scratches on it.

I look up

Everybody on the highway
All the traffic was stopped
They were all looking at me!

I waved to them,
said I'm alright
I started it up,
I drive home.

That's my very first bike ride.

And that night
one of the rare times I play poker with my family and friends
and I can't lose
I mean I knew I couldn't lose
I was totally charmed
The next day
wanted to try my motorcycle
Jones is really small

sometimes, in a rage, his father
would pick him up and fling him across the room

The Jones boys got to be very quick on their feet

Jones was dwarf-sized,
maybe like an elf
the bike was bigger than he was
he was only 17, I think

but he talked me into it
took it down the road
lost control
took him to the hospital
no damage
twisted up the bike a little bit
but we fixed that

the next day,
I'm sitting in my mother's trailer

cop car pulls up
two cops get out
Mom says,
Steve! Quick! Police! Hide!

I quickly run out the back door
of the trailer into the woods

all they wanted probably was to
give me a ticket because
I'd let a minor drive my motorcycle
but it's really nice to know your mom
is protective of you—

but why would she automatically assume
that they were there for me?
The Slow, Hard Crash

I was driving from Michigan to
Chagrin Falls in a massive downpour rainstorm
on the turnpike these cars
were going 30, 35 miles per hour
and what I would do
I would pull up to the cars in the darkness
look at them
then zoom off

into the night rain

It was like controlled
80, 90 miles per hour
in conditions where
if one bad thing—
everything was over

so I did this for a couple hundred miles
madness through storm
then in Toledo I get off cuz I'm hungry
and at 4 miles an hour I'm turning from the street
into the parking lot at Denny's
when the tires just swish out from underneath me
and I crash and bash my headlamp

At 100 miles an hour, nothing goes wrong.
At 4 miles an hour, I crash and hurt myself.

The Fast, Hard Crash

The end was Ohio.
The bike was fun in Michigan.
It's not fun in Cleveland you know.
In Michigan you can go 130 miles an hour
in the full moon
with your lights out

or 5 miles an hour
in the predawn
and every time you
dip down into one of these
gullies you smell the new morning earth,
the musk rising
the funk of the land coming up
all these smells
all these smells
and moisture

basically 5 miles an hour on a bike
is as exciting as 130 miles an hour
but in Cleveland
or even Ohio, forget it
so the bike didn't belong here
the night it died
was the only time I ever combined
white wine, LSD and a motorcycle

marijuana's just a staple
this is complicated

I and my other guy's wife
and her husband
were all tripping
on LSD I'd gotten
from one of their friend's sons
it was the husband's first trip
they were suburban
and we were drinking white wine
along with smoking some grass
doing the LSD
in the backyard

with forests
beyond that

in the sunshine

at one point
he was actually getting birds to hop up
and talk to him
it was a good trip for everyone


on the way home
on my motorcycle
I had my helmet on
I had a half-gallon of
white wine in a green jar
clenched between my thighs
I was high on grass
I was drunk on wine
I was still tripping
I was going way too fast
I went around a curve
and lost control of the bike
I slid
onto the asphalt
into a driveway
that had a speedbump

the bike and I flew into the air
at some point we came down
and both bounced

back into the air

there's a huge gash
in the side of my helmet
and when I came to

I was in shallow water
but the helmet
had prevented me from drowning

so twice the helmet saved me

all of a sudden there was
this old man in pajamas
standing over me
he reached down
picked up the green bottle of wine I still had
looked at me and said,
You're in enough trouble
poured the wine out
threw the bottle away
Enclosed Care

the cops came
and they kept insisting
I should go to the hospital
I kept insisting
I was fine
I was sitting in the back of the cop car
and the other cop says
You should see this

see I didn't have a motorcycle driver license
and I had plates that were two years old
so what I'd done is
I took off the previous one—
the sticker—
cut it
rearranged it
so it said the previous year

once I realized
I was going to get in trouble for that
I told the cop
You know,
you're right.
I really have to get to the hospital.
they took me

while I'm laying there
waiting to get examined
I realize I'm really in a serious amount of pain
but they won't give me anything for the pain
until they do the x-rays and stuff cuz they
don't know—you know—head trauma and
stuff like that
and while this is going on
I'm still stoned on grass,
tripping on acid, and drunk on white wine
it turns out I broke a collar bone
broke two or three ribs
cracked a pelvis

it killed the bike
all they did was give me a ticket
for 50 dollars for driving with an expired tag
and there was the hospital bill

and that's my motorcycle story


Today’s LittleNip:

When I’m riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive. When I stop riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive.

—Neil Peart


—Medusa, glad to be alive (well, mostly~), and glad to be celebrating six years of Smith’s monthly visits to Medusa’s Kitchen. Great storytelling, Stephen! Thanks!

Tonight (11/18), 6pm: Exploring Art Through Poetry: A Firehouse Session poetry reading with Lara Gularte at Confidence Firehouse Gallery, 487 Main St., Placerville. Free. Info:

Also tonight, 7pm: Poetry in Davis presents Troy Jollimore and Heather Artfeld (plus open mic) reading at John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st., Davis. Host: Andy Jones. Info:{"source"%3A"29"%2C"ref_notif_type"%3A"plan_user_invited"%2C"action_history"%3A"null"}&notif_id=1637049125847295&notif_t=plan_user_invited&ref=notif/.
The Future
—Photo by Smith

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