Bike Week, a poem; The things I’d miss

The things I’d miss; sailing neck and neck
With the porcelain, jewel eyed gull
On a sunny morning through the park.
Other days, swifts riding my bicycle’s bow wave
Weaving patterns in the air before my spinning wheel.

I’d miss the system check of ascent and descent; first
The heart races, shouts “still here, still beating” then
Over the top and gravity’s reign loosens
And air rushes like breaking waves, the freewheel’s tick blends to a hiss.
These are the things I’d miss.

On a warm evening, climbing out of town
Passing the Irish bar, ‘Danny Boy’ in doppler effect
Spills from the doorway like a lush. A few doors up
The smell of coffee briefly joins the senses’ tableau, replaced by baked pastries, fried chicken and oregano as I climb the fast food strip.
The sun is still warm on the neck, the breeze cool on my face, the forces are balanced and I’m spinning in bliss. These things and more, these are the things I’d miss.

Hidden places, the city’s secret corners, the nuances of place, the olfactory soundbyte of a woman’s perfume as I pass, the cigarette smoke from a car window, brief snatches of strangers’ conversations spilling onto life’s cutting room floor. I’d miss the keen connection with the ying/yang of hill, of weather, of visceral life. These are the things I’d miss
If I didn’t go by bike.

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I got off at the wrong station…

I got off at the wrong station last night,
Miscounted the stops. Realised too late
Alighted to save face. The evening
Was hot and hazy. One of those nights
When serendipity stalks. A cruel mistress
She is sometimes, but kind this night.

I pushed off away from the station
Up the pleasant lane of brick and black
And white houses, heading to the main road.
Then I saw it, the sign for a path undiscovered.

Tyres quitted tarmac and went silent
On compacted dirt. The path sliced narrow
Between suburban gardens, golf links
And forgotten patches, bramble lined and overgrown.
A very English jungle.
Spiny tentacles fingered the
Spokes of my wheels like a harp. Gravel
Pinged from my tyres like buckshot from a sling.

Wild garlic filled my senses, the path snaked
Gently down over cobbles and roots until
the evil fizz of traffic became a roar.

I shouldered the bike, heavy with daily bags
And climbed the motorway footbridge,
A narrow pontoon of concrete across a raging river
Of urgent metal. I stopped a moment to see
If I could see the whites of the drivers’ eyes
Through the glass. I could. On another day
That would be me, a rabbit caught in my own
Headlights.

I descended the bridge and followed the path
Cut by foot and wheel beside a vast field of wheat,
Its green heads swaying. Past the horses itching
Against rough hewn fences. Past the man walking his mastiff.

The path ended as it had to, finally spitting me out
On sadly familiar tarmac. I spun home happy though,
Knowing I’d charted new courses, ground new gravel,
Just a few miles from home. Later I pondered
The law of happy accidents.

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