Archives for category: STARTING TO RIDE

Old retro bike.
Tired Memories
by Shivapriya Ganapathy

the left and right handlebars
my childhood sat plop with

not-so-tight a grasp
on a brakeless bike-

(the one bought at a local garage for some cousin, and
generously passed down)

a skeptic green leaning over
our sturdy brick wall

for a week
the pedals whizzed up
and down
chasing the wind…

a bump here, and a dent
there, as i

wheeled my way to
bruised elbows and a
bleeding knee, which

ammi hushed wrapping me in
longer skirts and a tirade for
rest of the week admonishing

as though the bike had brought out
some devil in me

i would laugh off in a
swish of green cloud
barely touching the ground, even as

my snaky hair with its twisted heads
waved at the mountain sky

swiveling my bike
in those ribboned lanes my way

ghost winds howled into the
open mouth and wide-eyes of a
now fossilized

today, i turn the dusty green cycle
over in my mind, and

find my tired memory
lying flat —
a pale scar on my skin, the

only keepsake from
bygone rides

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The moment I learned the theme for this series, I was instantly drawn to it because cycling is one of the few outdoor activities I absolutely enjoy to this day. Funnily, when I sat to pen it, I realized how subjective and patchy memory could be, with incidents from my childhood and that of the long-lost green cycle bobbing up and down in my mind at their own pace (in a non-linear fashion). So this poem is one of nostalgia for the wind on my face, curvy roads downhill, and a carefree time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shivapriya Ganapathy lives in Chennai, India. She graduated with a Masters degree in English Literature, and is now a research scholar working on lesbian feminism and language. She mostly writes in free verse but also dabbles with haiku, tanka, and other Japanese short forms of poetry. Her poems have appeared in Whispers, Verse Wrights, Word Couch, Wordweavers, Spilt Ink Poetry, Sonic Boom, The Squire: 1,000 Paper Cranes Anthology, and The Great Gatsby Anthology by Silver Birch Press. She also maintains a personal blog and finds writing with a mug of coffee beside her therapeutic.

We extend our appreciation to the 76 writers — from 21 states and 14 countries — who participated in our  STARTING TO RIDE Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from May 6 – June 4, 2016. Many thanks to the following authors for a terrific series!

Tobi Alfier (California)
Elizabeth Alford (California)
Shawn Aveningo (Oregon)
Daisy Bala (Wisconsin)
Prerna Bakshi (China)
Roberta Beary (Maryland)
Rose Mary Boehm (Peru)
Jude Brigley (England)
Don Kingfisher Campbell (California)
Stephanie Casio (Florida)
Sylvia Cavanaugh (Wisconsin)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Gabriel Cleveland (Texas)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Steven Deutsch (Pennsylvania)
Mike Dailey (North Carolina)
Anna DiMartino (California)
Renee Emerson (Arkansas)
Abel Fernandez (Florida)
Vincent Francone (Illinois)
Martina R. Gallegos (California)
Shivapriya Ganapathy (India)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Susan W. Goldstein (Florida)
Geosi Gyasi (Ghana)
Jennifer Hamilton (California)
G. Louis Heath (Iowa)
Kate Hodges (Pennsylvania)
Ian Hunter (Scotland)
S.I. Kerns (Japan)
Sofia Kioroglou (Greece)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Jim Landwehr (Wisconsin)
Jessica Wiseman Lawrence (Virginia)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
Angie Lopez (Florida)
Virginia Lowe (Australia)
Rick Lupert (California)
Charlotte Lynch (England)
Betsy Mars (California)
Mary McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
Linda McKenney (New York)
Sandra Mooney-Ellerbeck (Canada)
Phyllis Moorman (Colorado)
Alice Morris (Delaware)
Paul Nebenzahl (Illinois)
Linda O’Connell (Missouri)
Lee Parpart (Canada)
Terez Peipins (Georgia)
Tim Phillippart (Michigan)
Lorna Pominville (Canada)
Anita Pulier (New York)
Richard L. Ratliff (Indiana)
Shermie Rayne (Virginia)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Alexis Rhone Fancher (California)
Jeannie E. Roberts (Wisconsin)
Sarah Russell (Pennsylvania)
April Salzano (Pennsylvania)
Tiffany Sciacca (Illinois)
Finola Scott (Scotland)
Nabanita Sengupta (India)
Sunil Sharma (India)
Ndaba Sibanda (Kuwait)
Ritika Singh (India)
Leslie Sittner (New York)
R.H. Slansky (California)
Meghan Sterling (North Carolina)
Rebecca B. Thomas (Wisconsin)
Thomas R. Thomas (California)
Melissa Villalon (California)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Connie Wieneke (Wyoming)
Joanie HF Zosike (New York)


No stablisers today
by Finola Scott

Gravel sharp grey crunching
ground slopes down, acid
dandlelions crowd the edges
     don’t go there don’t
      stay on the smooth path
      fast too fast
      but ai must go fast
      or I’ll fall
Wheels whirr whizz
My buckled sandals pump
faster round the pedals.
Daddy runs along
shouting “Straighten up, now!”
His tight hand at the saddle’s back
keeps me steady.

Sun belts down, burns freckles on neck,
grubby hands slip slide on chrome
     I can’t do this           too fast           I can’t
Mummy’s favorite blackbird whistles.
Near path’s end I rush
forward past the broken fence
hurtle alongside
the rough brick wall.
My curls bounce, gingham dress whips legs.
I glance round to ask
Daddy what to do
but he’s not there.
He’s grinning
from the top of the lane.

PHOTO: “Girls learn to ride a bike” (vintage photo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this poem, I try to capture the thrill and the fear of learning something potentially dangerous. More than that, it’s a tribute to parents, guardians, uncles, and aunties — anyone who has ever taken the time to teach a skill.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Finola Scott‘s poems and short stories are widely published in anthologies and magazines, including The Ofi Press, Raum, Dactyl, and The Lake. She is pleased to be mentored this year on the Clydebuilt Scheme by Liz Lochead. A performance poet, she is proud to be a slam-winning granny. She  lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

Kerns pic
Falling at the Fairgrounds
by S.L. Kerns

The fields past the basketball goals of the Adair County Fairgrounds were where I learned to ride a bike. Still five, Dad bought me a big BMX for my birthday. It was a sunny day. My folks were still married then. Still happy. Mom stood on the side watching as Dad put me on the seat. My feet dangled down. Dad held me up for balance while I pedaled around the field getting the hang of it.

He let go.

I rolled with more momentum than I had ever experienced, the Challenger bound for space. As the speed eased up the bike became wobbly. I fell over. My body flopped on the ground, the wind knocked out of me. I cried without sound. Without breath.

Dad told me to be a man and try again.

And again.

And again.

Dirty, hurt, and crying, I wanted to quit. Mom pleaded my case. Dad wouldn’t hear it.

“Don’t you ever be a quitter, son! You are better than that.”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Around the age of five at my grandfather’s house. We lived there after he passed away. He was a cool man in a rocking band called Mr. G and the G-strings.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a story I wrote on my iPhone during my long commute to work here in Kagawa, Japan. I do some of my best thinking on the quiet train with the mountains rolling by. I often piece things together on my phone and then download them onto my laptop and edit them to as close to perfection as I can manage.


S.L. Kerns
may have southern roots grounded in Kentucky, but has branched out to a life in Asia. He spent nearly six years lost in Bangkok before moving to his current home in Japan. He loves soaking in words of wisdom from being an avid reader and a good listener. He also loves bodybuilding, and likes to think of himself as one of the strongest prose writers since Yukio Mishima. He teaches English and has recently begun writing, using his surplus of wild experiences to fuel his stories. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, 101 Words, Silver Birch Press, Visual Verse, Degenerate Literature, and 47-16: A Collection of Poetry and Fiction Inspired by David Bowie. He also blogs for Muay Thai Lab. Follow him at

Bicycle Wheels
by Richard L. Ratliff

I remember clothespins and baseball cards
Used them on my bicycle spokes
Made it sound like a Harley
We never heard of helmets back when

Let’s be pretentious as grown ups.
Bad-ass bikers all of twelve.
Chuck Taylors roaming the neighborhood
Like a little rascals our gang movie

Always sang off-key like Alfalfa
And Spanky’s voice was cracking
No church choir for us
Carla was the little redhead two blocks over.

There was no Buckwheat in our neighborhood
We didn’t know why and that was our loss
We didn’t know any better
We would have liked him

Roamed blocks and backyards till dusk
Chased frogs at the creek, butterflies in a field
What is it called today — free-range kids?
But mother yelled and home we rode
Wonder if we used any Mickey Mantle cards

We buried old coffee cans of stuff
Outside our treehouse fort where we shot Indians
Time capsules for the future? I wonder

Copyright 2015, Richard L Ratliff

PHOTO: Mickey Mantle baseball card (1952) clothes-pinned to bicycle. (Photo by Jim Degerstrom, All rights reserved.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My poetic process is simply to paint word pictures of my memories and observations — to try and create new and unique images, hoping to touch the reader


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard L Ratliff is a baby boomer, born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana — his midwest ties have built the foundation and setting for his poetry. He is a Purdue University graduate with two years of engineering turned into a degree in English Literature, along with being a two-year letterman in wrestling. All of these eclectic combinations have given him a career as a boiler and combustion expert and poet. He has two published books.

Happy little girl standing on the beach
by Ritika Singh

First came jealously. A brother’s
thrust past me. Unsettled
dust of bicycle
grand prix.

At eight, I finally decided to
partake in this
of two wheels.

“Bhai ,
please teach me to
ride,” I
cried. “Sunday,” said he, after my ducts

Helmet. Knee pads.
Peanuts (for the show). Keys to his blue

Slow. I’ll
Follow. Don’t be a
fool!” and
I was in the bushes.

Take two.
Break! Move!
1998 was the year that I
yearned to glide
learnt to ride. And painfully discovered

PHOTO: “Girl riding bike on beach” by Altanaka, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ritika Singh is a Ph.D. scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She penned her first poem years before she learnt to ride a bike in 1998.

Bisikletlerle gezinti
by Charlotte Lynch

I cycle quietly through the trees
It rained this morning, so
Falling will only inconvenience my mother
I can hear her now, sighing
“Stand in the kitchen and leave your clothes on the floor.
Do not step on the carpet”
Wobbling slowly over leaves and twigs
I focus on arms outstretched
Ahead, my brother, younger, laughing
You’ve all this yet to come, brother dearest

I’m almost there, almost made it
Into the arms of what is these days a stranger

Finally, come to a stop
Feet squelch as they hit the ground
No trace of the white, rubber soles I left with
Smiling, you lean in
And I recoil a touch, a gentle shoulder rub
“Shall we take you back to your mum, then?”

We don’t talk on the journey home
But my brother keeps you occupied
Stabilisers on our bikes
He dreams of one day racing through puddles
Like the motorbike gangs tearing up the field
I pedal and pedal these four wheels
You don’t say home, because it’s not what it used to be

IMAGE: “Blue bike family” by Aslan Topcu, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem started off being about learning to ride my bike in the woods as a child, on a muddy clearing in the trees, but ended up being partly about the breakup of my parents and the effect it had on my relationship with my father as I delved deeper into the memory. I remember it very clearly, though I feel like my brain has probably taken some artistic license with it! I titled this poem “Learning,” as I feel as though there is more to be learned from this experience than just how to ride a bike, despite that being the main focus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlotte Lynch is a writer and musician who has done both of these things her whole life, regardless of having an audience or not. After obtaining a BA(1st) in Creative Musicianship in London, Charlotte has gone on to write, sing, love, and be happy. She is quite the walking cliché.

bala photo1
Learning to Ride a Bike
by Daisy Bala

Wikipedia defines bicycle as a single-track vehicle with two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. I was also always behind my brother, coping with teeny weeny challenges while he mentored me in cycling. He usually was better at grasping everything — advanced or mundane — while I was a laggard and a little gullible too.

When he learned to ride, his example sparked my desire to learn. So began my learning to the balance between the wheels. It was not long before my brother was handholding me during a dedicated daily schedule while I attempted various maneuvers.

I was his project and he worked me hard in the days that followed. Scorching my juvenile skin under the cacophony sun, barging into dead-ends, and colliding head on! He ran alongside me, straining his back and holding the handle to keep me upright as I slowly gained momentum on my unisex bike with a carrier, flashing headlight, scarlet chassis, and flashy stickers.

I never auditioned with training wheels, nevertheless managed well with pedaling, soon balancing and cycling with ease. Initially it felt weird forge ahead fast in untamed lanes but eventually I caught the spirit of self-transportation and the wind in the hair.

From wandering to staying focused, getting scratches to healing scabs, driving alone to double-seating, I did it all. My brother was relieved when I became a Miss Cycling Know-It-All. Ours was never a sibling rivalry, it was always sibling reverie and I cherish the hand holdings.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION:  This picture was taken at Mackinac Island [Michigan] last year summer when I shared double seat with my hubby dearest. Though the cycles were a little broad-boned for me, I revived my interest and memories.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A bicycle was the first thing that made me feel independent and flying. I have fond memories of my sibling helping me learn to ride. I was thrilled when I heard about this writing prompt so I could commit my memories to words.


Daisy Bala
lives in Wisconsin and maintains a blog at Her writings have been published with Silver Birch Press, Poetry Soup, and Creative Talents Unleashed.

Never Learned to Ride
by Mary McCarthy

Because one summer afternoon
the peace was broken
by a crash
followed by the wail of sirens
police and ambulance
already too late
keeping the crowd back
still close enough to see
white tennis shoes
and red blood
in the gutter —
Dad counting heads
making sure
we were all here
standing just outside
the front door
staring at the small
details of death
blood and white tennis shoes
and a broken bike
all we could see
of the collision
between our paperboy
and the truck turning the corner
too fast to stop —
So Mama saw to it
none of us ever
owned a bike
or learned to ride
not even something
we could imagine asking for
as long as anyone remembered
that unquiet afternoon

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The event described in the poem had quite an effect on all of us—I remember my dad counting heads—after all, we all wore tennis shoes, and that’s what he saw, tennis shoes and blood. Although we fought Mama’s overprotectiveness like any kids would, the bike-riding thing was something we didn’t question. The photo is of mom, dad, and all seven of us. I am in the far left, probably about 13 years old here.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Mama always thought she could protect us, even at the same time she knew she couldn’t. Her efforts to keep us out of danger went unappreciated, and were the first things we had to rebel against — although in this particular instance it worked — I think only one of my sisters and brothers ever learned to ride a bike, and that was as an adult.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and her chocolate lab — who make sure she remembers how to enjoy each day, whatever it may bring. Always a writer, she spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse — and now devotes her energies to poetry and art.

White Bicycle icon on red stop sign web app
I Survived…(A head on collision with a stop sign)
by Kate Hodges

There was a lot of blood. I had just mastered riding without training wheels. My sister and her friend were riding their bikes. I tagged along. She was thrilled to be saddled with me, so she adjusted the speed on her 10-speed and took off. She ended up about a block-length ahead of me.

My bike was purple and turquoise and had teddy bears. It wasn’t a hand-me-down! Around the block from our house, there was a bar on the corner with a stop sign right in front. The curb had a deep slope downward. If you built up enough speed and turned your bike at just the right angle, you would fly off the pavement for a few seconds. We spent hours doing that. If you missed…well you didn’t miss.

I pedaled, furiously pumping my legs. My sister was already so far ahead, and I didn’t know which way she would turn next. My bike couldn’t go any faster. The wheel wobbled as I took the curb. Crash-Smash. A head-on collision with a Stop Sign. My mouth was bleeding. I was missing a tooth. My sister heard me crying and slowed down. When she turned to look at me, her mouth formed an “O.” A man came out of the bar and searched the ground for my tooth. He was a stranger, though. I was sure I’d be in trouble.

I don’t remember how my bike made it back to the house. I do remember the dentist giving me extra stickers from the prize box. All of my meals were made in a blender for a week. I still remember the look of veal scaloppini liquefied. What I remember most: my dad fixed my bike, and I knew then that he could fix anything.

IMAGE: “Bike stop sign” by Image Vector, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Hodges is a teacher turned writer. She has traded the Middle School Science Lab for the Uni Library while studying in Scotland. Growing up, she dreamed of being Ramona Quimby, Dawn Schafer, and Sarah, Plain and Tall. She still believes that you can tell a lot about someone based on the a person’s favourite Wakefield Twin. She has fallen in deep like with Heathcliff, Laurie, and Moriarty. She has fallen in deep love with Gilbert Blythe. You can find her on twitter @kateyfacewrites.