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.


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.