bike ride
by Lee Parpart

With no spoken
world of my own I
borrow yours and
glide gently down it.
Drawing a secondhand
breeze from your
cheeks. Toying with
laughter borrowed
from your open

The daughter gives
birth to the mother
and here we are,
swapping histories in
mid-slope. The sight of
your skinny limbs
swaddled in
protective pads
wetting my eyes
with envy and delight.

Both of us wrapped
in knowing that your
steadfast Dad, the one I
cleverly chose for you,
would have stayed up
all night if he had to
scouring bike blogs and
manuals for pro tips on
best ways to teach
skittish kids how to ride.

Perched on the hill,
watching and being you,
I catch your borrowed
breath in my throat amid
a sudden memory of electric
shocks. We squirm for
space on your long yellow
banana seat. Happily
sensing the faint imprint
of his hand on our back:

Hold on tight.
Coast until you can pedal.
Feet clear of the spokes.

With each wheel’s
rotation these
tender directives and
flights of pink plastic
sing a bright
antidote to
fluorescent corridors,
sallow skin, and
soiled sheets.

Their very pinkness
the glittering medium
for a love tensile
and systematic
enough to smooth
slashed tires, bridge
resentments and
offset other species
of harm.

Pedaling faster now,
I spin our stories
into a sturdy weave of
shared purpose, then
ghost-ride straight
through us. Leaning in
to these gently used
tokens of paternal
care. Listening
as they ring in a
long, clear bell peal
of what is, was, and
might have been.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is a screen grab from a video of my husband teaching our daughter to ride in 2012.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although I did learn to ride a bike at some point and have always been steady on two wheels, I have no idea when I acquired the skill or who helped me. I have a feeling it was not my Dad, who served as a neurologist in Vietnam and was later hospitalized for long stretches with PTSD. When I watched my supremely patient husband teach our daughter how to ride a bike a few years ago, I was struck by the difference between her experience of this rite of passage and my own. Writing this piece allowed me to live vicariously through her in a way that almost felt like getting to do it all over (again?) – a form of “auto-re-parenting.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart recently returned to poetry and fiction after setting both aside for years to work as an arts journalist and media studies researcher. Her essays on cinema, television, and visual art can be found in Essays on Canadian Writing, The Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Athena’s Daughters, The Gendered Screen, and North of Everything, Take One, Modern Fuel, POV, C magazine and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Hegira and Silver Birch Press. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.