Saturday’s Poem: Bicycle Spring

What better poem for a bright spring day than one about riding a bike? I know: I’m partial to bicycle themes, but why not? For me, as it was for many, a bike was a ticket to a wider world. My first bicycle was a second-hand Schwinn, shiny blue, its handlebars a’bloom with streamers. It was delivered to my house on a hot summer day and covered in a sheet. “We got you a special rack for hanging laundry indoors,” said my father. I pulled off the sheet and there was the bike, gleaming like a dream. Unlike the kid in this poem, it was not my father who taught me how to ride a two-wheeler but a ragtag team of whomever I could tap, and the pivotal moment came when an older kid named Jackie Milici offered his assistance. He positioned himself behind me with his hands on my back, told me to start pedaling, and vowed he would never let go. I was way at the end of the street before I realized he had long ago let go of me. I was irrationally angry at him but came to see it, wisely, as a necessary betrayal. I later heard that Jackie was trouble––there were rumors of arrests and armed robbery––but his role in my life was a gallant one, for he helped to open up the radius of my Saturdays.

BICYCLE SPRING by Kevin Fitzpatrick

Windy, sunny, and Sunday,
the afternoon of your father’s promise,
you will learn to ride your bike:

your father breathing hard
pushes, runs at your side,
one hand on the handlebars,
the other firm on the seat,

launching you like a glider
to soar long seconds
before wobbling to crash
in the soft green field

until you know how to ride
suddenly except for the brakes
and your father suddenly
is a speck waving way behind.

as you pedal toward strange sights
in blocks where he
has forbidden you to walk.

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