Various and Sundry Poetry


At 10, she rode her bike fearlessly, even though it was just the streets of suburban San Luis Obispo, even though her neighborhood was flat and sleepy and without any visible drama; she made it happen on her bike, turned lawn spigots into an obstacle course, used the gravel at the end of her driveway as a place to practice skidding, riding hard in what the highest gear afforded her before coming to a jarring stop before the low pile, sticking her foot out on the pavement, threatening herself with a sprained ankle, a broken wrist, skin torn into bits.

How she learned to ride this way, enamored with danger, she can’t remember. She can remember, at 5, plummeting from her bicycle on a steep downhill and landing flat on her face, her bottom lip a balloon for almost a week. She can remember how loudly she screamed when she tumbled and her body hit the pavement at full speed. She can remember how much it hurt to fall like that, but what she can’t remember is how she ever got back on, and how, five years later, she was attempting a set of tricks on a different, faster bike that would undoubtedly cause her more harm, that could lend itself to further disaster. And yet, she rode.

More importantly, she wonders how she can replicate that same fearlessness now, that charge ahead, that feeling of sheer capability and nerve. She wonders how she can get that kind of wind back in her sails again.

. . . . . .

Let’s start over. Say you are a girl of 10. You are a tomboy. You are a little afraid of what other people think of you but what you aren’t afraid of are the elements. You will run around in the rain for hours to see how soaked you can get, so you can see how much your mother will gasp at your foolhardiness once you get home. You will leap from enormous sand dunes without looking where the bottom is. You love getting dirty, cleaving buttons from their notches when you play an impromptu game of softball dressed inappropriately. And yes, you will get on a bike and attempt a trick you have no experience in executing, nor any teacher to help you out with the particulars. All you know is the picture you have in your mind of your bike catching air, your legs splayed like the ones you’ve seen in those posters of Motocross professionals. All you have is your bike, and a Sunday afternoon, and an empty driveway and a quiet street. No one is watching, and that has no bearing whatsoever on the kind of risks you are willing to take, because all that matters is that picture you are carrying, you being airborne.

. . . . . .

Let’s start there. No one watching. Quiet. Emptiness. Sunday. Just you and your bike. You can use another word for “bike.” Any one will do. You and your heart. You and your love. You and your poetry, your hands, your eyes, your desire, your wisdom, your lack of wisdom, your simple but urgent instinct to leap, change shape, improvise, reimagine, recreate.

Let’s start here. An act of creation. Risk. Forgetting that you fell, once, long ago. Forgetting the injury, your fat lip, your skinned knees, the gravel still embedded there. Knowing that each fall was unavoidable and perhaps even necessary. Seeing the intelligence of the fall, and then forgetting even that. Starting over. Starting now. Starting here.