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.

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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.