BMX biker
Last Lesson: Over the Handlebars
by Gabriel Cleveland

The chain’s rattle and my heavy breath
go quiet as a boneyard when my fists clench
but only the front brakes catch
with a clatter like chairs at the end of class
as gravity perforates and I’m suspended
mid-air. The earth tilts fast to catch me.
The sidewalk eclipses the sun.
I come to with a wish that I could roll over
and smell the grass, too dizzy with a mouth
angry with grizzle and grease to move.
Mom’s swears fade in between the vacant space
where my front tooth used to live until she finds it
amidst the bloody gravel. My face is numb with scrapes
I won’t feel for days as a sopped cloth
holds pain within the hole in my absent grin.

IMAGE: “Bike rider” by Zeber, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tend to write line by line, coming up with a series of moments encapsulated within an event, and will reread my poem repeatedly as I write it, revising and shaping the work as it reaches completion. Because of this, I tend to produce decently polished drafts which then require weeks of distance before further revision is possible. My mind works in metaphors and strange connections and coincidences, and I do my best to capture those on the paper in the most accessible language possible. I keep a pocket notebook on me most of the time and also write on my phone when I take my occasional four-mile walks. I also find that building Personal Universe Decks and random formal writing challenges keep my brain elastic enough to not fall into the trap of writing the same poem over and over.

DIGITAL CAMERA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gabriel Cleveland has been excavating his brain cage for the past 12 years, and is an avid student in the school of observation. He is constantly trying to discover what lies in the shadows of his knowledge. He graduated from Pine Manor College with an MFA in creative writing and currently writes from Austin, Texas, where he maintains a writer page on Facebook full of early drafts and other exciting material: Facebook.com/GabrielTHEPOET.

girl with bike
Learning to Ride
by Joan Colby

It was a blue Schwin
Full sized with a fender
And silvery spokes. Its seat so high
My short legs wouldn’t reach the pedals even
When when my father fastened blocks.
For two years, I rode standing up balancing
The way I balanced bareback on my pony.

When my legs finally lengthened
To reach those pedals as I perched
On the leather seat, I learned
How to ride no-handed,
Steering with muscles and gut
As my whole body learned
The art of going faster.

PHOTO: “Girl with new bike” (1961), available at ebay.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I well remember the frustration of having to ride my way-too-big bike standing up for about two years. This did not discourage me, however — though it was quite a relief when I was at last able to sit on the seat while I pedaled. Those were the days of no helmets, riding other kids on the fender or the handlebars (or both at once). Now people are practically in suits of armor for a bike ride. Progress? I guess.

joan-c11

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

Little girl cycling
Learning to Leave
by Meghan Sterling

Certain I couldn’t do it, lacking center,
lacking strength,
the metal frame listing right and left
like a sailor in a storm,
the wheels turning out as though broken,
I wanted to go in,
away from threatening pavement,
brackish puddles, syrup air spilt down
a guava tree, as if swallowed.
And when you let go
and I was sailing upright, the air soft around me,
my body a stone cast and skimming,
you continued to run alongside,
pedal faster, look straight ahead,
until you fell away, your voice small as the calling of distant birds,
and what I didn’t know was that this would be only the first time
you would set me adrift, to leave you behind.

PHOTO: “Little girl cycling” by Nomad Soul, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process is often prompted by a feeling of discomfort. Something will be said, or felt, that sparks a squeamish uncertainty, the necessity to get clear about what just happened, whether it was 30 years ago or an hour ago. I sit with my journal and begin to explore what I see in those memories — images then lead to a clearer understanding of experience. What, and how, I remember, tells me a great deal about myself, and can lead me to see more clearly how to proceed, whether in a poem, or in life.

meghan sterling

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meghan Sterling is a writer and writing teacher who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and cat. Sterling’s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Red Paint Hill, Fredericksburg Art and Literary Review, Cahoodaloodaling, Enclave, Chagrin River Review, Lingerpost, Yellow Chair Review, Cladesong, WNC-Woman, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Clementine Poetry Journal, the Chronogram, Stone River Review, and others.

pedal

Pedal, Pedal!
by Susan W. Goldstein

“Pedal, pedal!” shouted mom as she held onto the handlebars and ran alongside my new bike. My “new” bike was a bubble-wheel used one. I had very practical parents: this is her training bike. Let it take the punishment as she learns. Let it get all dinged and banged and beaten-up before we invest in a nice, shiny blue Schwinn with a little bell and a white, woven basket in front. Maybe even some rainbow streamers from the handgrips! I was so going to rock that bike. As soon as I learned how to ride this sorry-looking ugly one. Sorry, Ugly Bike: but it was true. You were an ugly rusty blood red.

“Pedal, just pedal,” was my poor, winded mother’s mantra as she ran and ran and ran. I was petrified of falling and my feet just wouldn’t cooperate. If I had monkey feet, they would have been grasping those pedals as tightly as if I were hanging upside down.

I don’t believe that my mom was accustomed to such exertion, but she was determined to get me riding. Had I known how much I would love the exhilaration of biking, I would have made a greater effort to overcome my wussiness.

The afternoon progressed from Mom’s smiling encouragement to teeth-baring growls of “Just pedal the bike.” Did I finally take pity on mom or did something just click? Either way, I was ready and shouted, “Let go! I can do it!” And I began to pedal. I was riding a bike! Steering would be next on our agenda, as I glided right into the side of a parked car and crashed to the ground. It was ok. I had ridden a bike! My Schwinn was finally within reach.

PHOTO: “Pedal of old bike” by Sergey Khamidulin, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Ideas just pop into my head; poems used to pour fourth fully completed. The older and wiser I get, the harder the process becomes. Don’t put too much thought into thinking. This particular memory that I chose left an indelible mark in my heart. My mom was my greatest cheerleader.

Susan Weidenbaum Juster Goldstein

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan W. Goldstein never had the pleasure of teaching her two sons how to ride bikes; they were born with natural grace and biking abilities. In addition to biking, Susan writes essays and flash-fiction for various on-line publications, including MAW [Mothers Always Write] and … Silver Birch Press! [check out her infamous, “Miss Frizzle” escapade].

Russell
Eighth Birthday Surprise
by Sarah Russell

A full-sized Schwinn.
I’d grow into it, they said.
Weighed about a hundred pounds.
Balloon tires.
Step-back brakes.
Pushitwithyourthumb bell.
No training wheels.

I tottered,
twisted,
tanked,
teetered
around a corner
warning the world
with my pushitwithyourthumb bell
when old Mrs. Mapes
came the other way
with two bags of groceries
and I couldn’t stop
and she fell
and I fell
and the bags broke
and her eggs broke
and she yelled
and I cried
and skinned my knee.

I had to buy Mrs. Mapes a carton of eggs with my allowance. Totally unfair. Never have liked bike riding much since.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This isn’t me, but the proportion of the size of the bike to the little girl is about right. (The picture is a free download from giphy.com.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This topic revived memories of both physical and psychic wounds. Over the years I have tried to take up bike riding several times. It always ends up in stitches.

Sarah Russell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing, and editing academic prose. Her poetry has appeared in Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, The Houseboat, Shot Glass Journal, Ekphrastic Magazine ,and Silver Birch Press, among others. Her poem “Denouement” won the Goodreads poetry contest in February, 2014.  Follow her work at SarahRussellPoetry.com.

 

lowe1
Forgetting how to ride a bike
by Virginia Lowe

My father loved the stars
In another life,
permitted education,
his facility with numbers
might have made him
a famous astronomer
instead of an accountant
See that bright one?
That’s Beetle-juice
I remember him telling
Yes, I’d say meekly
wishing to please
But I couldn’t of course
It was all just fuzzy blobs

See that milkbar on the corner?
No I said. Didn’t want to be sent
somewhere I couldn’t see
Stupid child! they thought
It never occurred to them
that I really couldn’t see.

So on my seventh birthday
a bicycle purple painted,
with Virginia
in gold down the crossbar
the most beautiful bike ever seen
I was terrified
to ride it, I couldn’t see
where I was going,
what was in front
I walked it to school
to Brownies after school
to have it admired,
to show it off
but I couldn’t actually ride it.

Six months later
my myopia finally spotted by a teacher
I learned to ride with my new glasses
I was never very good
never enthusiastic
never worthy of the bike’s beauty
The skill now long forgotten

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The family. I am about eight. Father looks like an accountant. How would he have looked as an astronomer?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Being short-sighted from birth, and it not discovered until I was seven, affected my life in many ways. I’m sure that’s why I have face-blindness, for instance. The fascinating thing about poetry is that it gives you a new angle on the world. It has never occurred to me before that my father could well have been an astronomer, and I’m quite excited by this new thought.

Lowe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virginia Lowe has been writing poetry for about 50 years. She has a PhD in children’s literature and her thesis has been published as a book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell (Routledge 1996). For 20 years she has run the manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, adult grandson, two Devon Rex cats, and seven Isa Brown hens.

Moorman First Tricycle 2001
The Three-Wheeled Wonder
by Phyllis Moorman

Shifting weight, balancing,
steering straight through;
After a while, we needn’t think
about how we do what we do.

Hop on, pedal ’round,
meet a friend or two;
Kids of all ages do it;
All, that is, except you.

It wasn’t there weren’t any,
or that you didn’t dream
of riding off with other kids,
being part of their scheme.

But the reality of your body,
bilaterally not the same,
left you without balance
to ride out with the gang.

Forty years hence, you
sought to try again;
A three-wheeled trike
was how you would begin.

How your eyes glistened as
your right foot pressed down,
Then your left leg followed
as the pedal came around.

I stood with pride, as you
continued to learn to ride;
You’d think I was your mama
instead of your wife.

Your wheels have since been traded
for a newer, streamlined trike;
Who would’ve guessed a three-wheeler
could outpace my two-wheeled bike.

PHOTO: The author’s husband Jerry Moorman riding his upright tricycle on Colorado River trail, 2001.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband has been handicapped since birth (cerebral palsy). Then he contracted polio as an infant and was left with his entire left side a lot smaller and weaker than his right. He was never able to ride a bicycle and missed out on activities other children could do without even thinking. He discovered three-wheel bicycles for adults when he was in his forties and has been riding ever since with me, his daughter, and now his grandson.

Moorman Phyllis Author Photo1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phyllis Moorman lives in Western Colorado, where she enjoys her retirement years writing poetry and publishing books through her company, Raven Books. She has had poetry published in newspapers and journals and maintains a poetry blog. Her latest publication is due for release in late May and is titled Self-Publishing: Sharing the Secrets.

Vector seamless pattern with bicycle. Can be used for desktop wallpaper or frame for a wall hanging or poster,for pattern fills, surface textures, web page backgrounds, textile and more.
Almost
by Angie Lopez

The first time I ride a bike,
I do not take off the training wheels.
My best friend lifts his in the air,
as if he was riding a wild mustang,
while my hands shake
if they leave the handlebars.

The first time I learn to ride a bike,
It will not be my choice.
Hers will not come with training wheels.
But she is patient, loving,
and I will brake more than I need to.
Afraid of bruising and scars,
my head and heart will still be left
skidding on concrete.

Despite how hard I tried,
I never understood
this bicycle balancing act.
Only sometimes would the need
to return to childhood innocence
creep in, and only then
would I attempt to pedal.

The last time I learn to ride a bike
I will stop at the first sign of failure.
I am too alone and too different
to pick up where I left off.
They said I’d never forget
but I was never taught to remember
and now it is already too late.

The last time I ride a bike
I will not be who I was
when I first rode one.
Though my hands grip
the rusty handlebars
with a comforting familiarity,
my feet do not leave the ground.

IMAGE: “Bicycle pattern” by Maria Galybina, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have never truly learned to ride a bike, but there have been several points in my life when I almost have been able to. This poem illustrates these few occasions. The closest to learning to ride a bike occurred when I was 13 (the second stanza is based on of this instance). However, I scraped my knee and never rode a bike again. Truthfully, I never took an interest in bike riding but I always found it to have a strong connection to childhood and therefore highlight this by using the bike as method of illustrating how I change and transition from childhood to adolescence.

angie lopez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angie Lopez lives in Miami, Florida, and is a freshman at Coral Gables Senior High in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. Fifteen years old, she is passionate about the art of language, and currently speaks Spanish, French, and English, and writes short stories and poems — primarily in English. She has only recently started to develop her voice as a writer, but hopes to one day have her words touch the hearts of audiences everywhere.

lawrence
Her
by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence

Her moving beneath my skin –
elbows sharp beneath the woven tent
of me, her the finest fish in my ocean.

Then born, gray-eyed, and I put her on a blanket beneath trees
full of spring, her looking up, so full of everything –

her on legs next, toes, teetering through the house,
her sudden running across the yard weeks later,
her swimming in the shallows of the lake.

Her. Drawing crooked poles into letters, her name
at school, farther from me –
every day a little farther.

Yesterday she rode her bike in the driveway, and I watched
her from the window while I rinsed the white dishes,
and I think now –

I will be stretched taut until I’m over,
forever pulled across her life –
a straight line from where she came from
and one of a million threads that made her.

PHOTO: The author’s daughter, age four.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write about my daughter a great deal because I’m a poet, and she is poetry.

jessical

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Wiseman Lawrence is the author of Terrible Little Stars, available from Kentucky Story Chapbooks. Some of her other recent work can be found in Clockwise Cat, Indiana Voice Journal, and Cease, Cows, along with many others.

black and white rabbit in the grass
Welcome to the Jungle
by Ian Hunter

You wanted a rabbit
We wanted you to ride your bike
without stabilizers
I took them off with a spanner
and we headed downhill
to the Jungle

It’s gone now that patch of land
with a grassy stretch
overgrown trees
the remains of old buildings
and a huge heap of earth
the kids called Muddy Mountain

I ran behind you
holding the back of the bike
which wobbled then straightened
going faster and faster
like your legs
fists tight on the handlebars

Are you holding on!
you shouted
Yes, I answered back
Are you holding on!
Yes, I lied
Opening my hand
grinning as you left me behind

The rabbit was black and white
You called him Cuddles

PHOTO: “Black and white rabbit in the grass” by Jonnysek, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Welcome to the Jungle” was written entirely from memories of trying to get my son Alex to ride his bike without stabilizers [training wheels], which hadn’t been going too well until the inducement of getting a pet rabbit was introduced. Sadly, the “Jungle,”which included Muddy Mountain and a path that wound its way through the remains of old buildings and chimneys, and was a magnet for children all around, is now a housing estate.

ian hunter

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hunter lives in Scotland, where he is a Director of the Scottish Writers Collective “Read Raw” and a member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle. He is also poetry editor for the British Fantasy Society and reviews for Interzone, Concatenation, and Shoreline of Infinity. His poems and short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA, and Canada, and he is the author of three children’s novels.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,553 other followers