by April Salzano
Lined up, ready to go to Grandma’s
for their weekly visit to a home with functioning
appliances and constant utility service,
one of the four would be
chosen to ride on the back of Dad’s
Harley. Why did their mother
subject them to this—
to breathe more freely in the car
that traveled a different route to the same place
with three bickering children instead of four?
To surrender one child to the father,
to see if they loved each other
when they got there?
Each avoided eye contact,
not wanting to be picked, and still
with the flick of a finger,
the quick pronunciation of a name,
one would have to strap on a helmet
and ride, careful to hold onto
Dad’s beltloops and not
grip the fat squeezing over his jeans.
She chose the middle child that Sunday.
She was changing a diaper, holding
the baby’s ankles in one hand and couldn’t
see the girl’s eyes pleading,
No, not me, I rode last week.
The father looked at the choice
as a burden. He wanted
to drive fast and free,
to forget he had children.
For a glorious fifteen highway minutes,
to forget that not remembering is impossible,
that plastic sneakers melt on tailpipes
and careless laces stick in spokes.
The girl didn’t know
before she straddled the leather seat
that her helmet wasn’t fastened properly,
that the wind would lift it,
or that her father would stop
and punch it back on her head.
She only feared that her fingers would slip
from the loops, and the wind would tear
her from her father’s back.
PHOTO: Lone Biker of the Apocalypse and Nathan, Jr., in the 1987 Coen Brothers film Raising Arizona.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Though not on a bicycle, learning to be a good passenger seemed a kind of acceptance into the private world my father inhabited, which always seemed to me to be a place where he could pretend to be someone else.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: April Salzano is the co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press and is currently working on a memoir about raising a child with autism, as well as several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Award and has appeared in journals such as The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her chapbook,The Girl of My Dreams, is available from Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry collection Future Perfect is forthcoming from Pink Girl Ink. More of her work can be read at aprilsalzano.blogspot.com