In Tandem
by Betsy Mars

The time had come to take the stand:
kicking it up and out of the way,
I wobbled from side to side
wearing my training wheels,
only just maintaining balance.

My father wrenched away my dependency.
Unbolted, I sat upright.
He kept a hand lightly on my back,
steadying, as I learned to ride alone.
Instead of unforgiving concrete, he gave me grass
to soften the blow: a lesson in man versus nature.

Wheels spinning, with effort I made my move.
Elation and premonition of the inevitable
separation as I rode free, relatively stable,
his imagined hand constant.

Along life’s pitted paths, the many bumps and bruises
calloused my spirit and hardened my heart.
Obstinate and frightened, over time I rode alone;
bones brittle from frequent breaks,
I was afraid to risk a fall.

When my father died, I clutched his life —
a comforting cardigan against my loss.
Now, beneath my wheels,
I feel the forgiving foundation.
I take the saddle again, this time in tandem,
I find my feet and go.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me around three years old, pre-training wheels.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My bicycle allowed me an early sense of freedom to roam the neighborhood — in a range that would terrify me as a parent today. My father took me out on the grass in front of our apartment when I must have been six years old and ran along behind me, keeping me upright, until I got a sense of how to maintain my balance on my own. I think that this is a good metaphor for the role he played throughout his life, and even in death — his example of childlike joy and aliveness keeping me emotionally balanced in the wake of his death.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a Southern California poet, mother, and animal lover with a severe case of travel fever. Her poems have been published in several anthologies, and she has enjoyed the dialog that has resulted from her online publications since she has a paralyzing fear of giving readings.