To bike these days (a poem)

almonte_140722_1The accident has taken an edge off this fun. It’s just become another thing to think about.
These days I carry my knee like some foreign appendage
wincing and praying to myself that it doesn’t explode
There’s that sharp, stabbing in my left knee that reminds me of my vulnerabilities
Yet, thankfully, I can bike through the pain (still) to climb the next hill
and, take the crest, shift my weight, relax, coast, exhale.

What had I expected with this climb?
I had felt that jolt as I raised myself from my seat and then I checked
the cantaloupe appeared overtop my knee, my tendon as hard as the Rock of Gilbraltor
The only consolation is the thought that I will not falter, but continue to ride through…
The wind and the hills and that sharp stabbing pain of my leg
all these certainties that make this ride so important – and I can’t help by grin

I check ahead and prepare for the next climb, gearing down
to enter the climb, slow but steady
right, right, right, I pump through
The right leg extended – ignoring my left knee
There is a drop of sweat rolled down onto my nose.
The strain is obviously good for my soul, no?
Honest effort to wash away all the worthless self-inspections
I dig in, shift in the saddle to take weight off my leg

My mind wonders…. biking is therapeutic –
along with exercise there is reflection and self-inquiry
On one level a biker will see the roadside and take in its wonders
Stretches of trail with ever changing horizons
Then on another level, he is dragged through daily encounters, cascading memories and irritants, just to reaffirm a doubtful significance
It’s a mix of physical and mental exercises,
starting with a few easy stretches – pulling back and then pushing forward
to retread ground that just yesterday you had visited
It’s a continual peeling back of thoughts and ideas and reality
underneath the helmet –
Ride after ride, routinely humping your way through the same mental landscape,
annoyed with the inability to produce closure to the nonsense you’ve chosen to recall

Before me is what I have come to know
as my favourite countryside vista
Why does it look so unattractive today?
It seems on days like these
all I do is complain

How’s it that wind can blow two directions at once?
I am pumping hard and my head is down
Leaning against strong, steady gusts of wind
That same wind that greeted me when I was peddling in the opposite direction

Loose gravel gives way to a washboard surface
And I’m uncomfortably bouncing in the saddle
Now, what did I do to deserve this?
Suddenly from out of the curve a car appears
The tires spit up dirt and two stones
It passes, leaving dust and the smell of exhaust to envelop me
I ask again, what did I do….

I know I must fixate on something else: crows
The crows caw at me with amusement, no encouragement,
just an annoying call of delight as they watch me climb the twisting hill,
head turned and shifting back and forth in the saddle.
They seem to herald me to continue around the bend
to more road and another hill.
I relax my left leg and glide through the decline,
praying all the time to be able to survive that next ascent.
All the while, crows fly along beside the road, just above the brush,
so that they can keep an eye on my ride.

I now see the finches dart in and around the cat tails
and coming ever so close to where I can only dream of being
They seem stuck in a pattern of full circles,
repeatedly diving as close to the ground, then turning suddenly;
they glide sideways above the dirt as they have done so many times before.
And just as my legs go full circle, my knee turns over,
and then I see that I have sprouted finch wings.
I am out of the saddle and lean to continue my own turn downward spiral
and pick up speed to feel that rush again, take in the full breath and hold the moment;
not to let it escape as it had when I was younger and not smart enough to feel anything.
It’s a complete moment. It’s absolutely why I carry my knee out to bike these hills.

 

– Chris George

(ed. – This poem is from the collection entitled Midstep – a dozen poems towards where I want to be. The collection can be obtained without cost by contacting myself at chrisg.george@gmail.com )

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