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 )

A Ride at Dawn

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Sunday morning traction

my soul skimming

over the front tire

nothing but a clear road

and the rising sun and

clarity with each breath

digging into each hill

warm beads of sweat

drop off my forehead

somewhere from above

and I catch myself smiling

knowing this is a start

of a beautiful day

 

(ed. – I am just back in from a sunrise ride through the sideroads of Lanark. I am reposting this poem, which was written a few years ago after a similar morning ride. And, it’s a poem that is printed in The Humm this month in a section featuring Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month activities. Check out the bike activities in Almonte through June at www.mmbm.ca)

The fiddler’s smile

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I can’t seem to shake loose this stupid grin
As I watch my son lean into the mic to project the opening notes
he cocks his head to the side and lets his fiddle sing
a series of double strings, then his fingers run up and down the fiddle’s neck
and then a clear high siren, before he brings the reel home with a cascade of sounds

A young girl is up and dances in front of him
shuffling back and forth and keeping rhythm by
running her hands through her locks
Others stand, smiling, tapping their toes, clapping
And the bow dips and dives, the music seems to
carry all of us off to another, livelier place

There’s a faint smile and glint in the fiddler’s eye
Though he’s never travelled the road to Errogie
he’s brought the Scotland highlands to this hall, this night
We are there, transported with him, delighted with each draw of his bow

The right foot stamps as he gazes off somewhere between his notes
and then his eyes catch mine and he raises his eyebrows,
nods his head towards me, then flashes that fiddler’s smile,
small gestures that lift and carry me away with him and his tune

 

– Chris George

 

(ed. – This is a newly released poem found in a compilation of verse just released under the title of MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be. To get your copy of Midstep, contact chrisg.george@gmail.com.) 

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MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be

Almonte’s Riverview

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The river rapids are swollen, gushing with Spring’s anticipation;

my gaze sweeps upwards beyond the falls and spray.

I’m elevated, suspended somewhere above the rocks,

the deafening noise and the surge and the fury.

I’m hung there, numbed senseless by my creative drought,

whilst the clapping echo of the pregnant Mississippi

dances through my soul’s cavity, pulling at my empty thoughts.

I moisten my lips with the spray, then turn the corner of Mill Street

to retrieve my daily bundle of flyers and bills from the post office.

 

– Chris George

 

(ed. – This poem was written in Spring 2013, since our family’s move to Almonte. It is one poem in a compilation of verse just released under the title of Midstep – A dozen poems towards where I want to be. To get your copy of Midstep, contact chrisg.george@gmail.com.) 

walking-349991_640

MIDSTEP – A dozen poems towards where I want to be

The repeated cawing of the crow

Was that a warning of some sort
when that crow swooped low, inches above my head to let out a shriek?
Just how did I get to this spot,
on this straight road leading me onto the hazy, distant horizon?
There’s 12 black birds glaring down from the wire,
and another solemnly sitting atop a fence post;
all observing my every move with quiet, mocked disdain.
I can only stare back in silence at my judge and jury for
is there any point in shaking a fist into the air, or hanging my head to avert my eyes?
The early afternoon sun hangs high in the sky
I’ve broken into a warm, dripping sweat
and turning my face to the light, gentle breeze, it carries nothing but
whispers of doubt and unanswered propositions from my past.
No solace. No relief. No comfort on this road, in coming to terms with my inquisitors.
The repeated cawing of the crow is unnerving; so too the black birds’ unrelenting stare.
If only this high wire act would share their insight:
what is it that they see on the horizon, and why do they glare at me so?

 

Chris George

Chris George has released “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was”, a compilation of 10 poems compiled through last year’s summer months. The verses capture the expectations raised in moving into a new community and making a new start. They also include personal reflections of a writer’s challenges to begin again, afresh. If you are interested in receiving “Almonte and the summer of 2013 that was” – write chrisg.george@gmail.com – and provide your e-mail.