May 19, 2016
Hundreds of us side by side matter. Blue paint over orange, new paint of pink and black, what matters are the retro among us saved, refurbished, and ridden. Reflectors of white and red, SPF beads rainbowing the sun, our headlights and taillights matter. We’re here to be seen. A bell announces us, the matter of hailing summer, fellow traveler, old bicycle friend. Coils of lock, loops of chain padlocked, hard metal U to bind us unmoving for fuel, maybe a rub and scrub down, a long spray with a hose. Baskets hold tools, a route map, a very small dog along for the ride, their phones for the matter of work, all the anti-work matter. Sometimes they forget us, slip-slide and crash to sport road-rash, bruises on tail, and gouges into flesh, proving we matter. The ghost bikes among us matter, the ones bound to street lamp or on a fence high in the air, unmoving, filled with flowers, American flags, signs that name the fallen. Whenever we are among them, they ride us or prop us against trees. They stretch and snack, talk matters of route, the roar of 20,000 wheels, the miles left to go. As they swagger tight-hipped in kit—knickers, mirrored shades, handkerchiefs bright and flagged—they like to tease, Badass. Or maybe it’s, Good as, as in almost as good as the gear, the road, us.
The tongue can become a bell cupped in a palm as the road jolts with gravel, cement dissolving into ditch, forest-line, stream. The eyes can catch the reflectors’ lights—hexagonal and white facing where the route points, or wide and red opening to what’s passed. Early morning, mid-storm, or night, the path flickers with distance pedaled, distance to go. The brain and thoughts can remain protected by helmet and skull, bound in place by clip. Strengthened by all this holding on, the work of arms, back, and core. The bones upon this frame arrow to the next midpoint, the slow roll through historic town, the rest stop for lunch. I could say the spokes turn the wheels and the lube moves the miles to get us to where we’ll unfold our mats under a field of stars. I could talk or not, but I climb the rollers. I coast. The self, once tucked inside panniers, becomes the flag, the windsock, bright ribbon of color chuckling, high above two blurred wheels, there for the ride.
Poetry by Laura Madeline Wiseman | Adam Wagler photos
Laura Madeline Wiseman’s recent books are: An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), and Leaves of Absence (Red Dashboard). She teaches in Nebraska. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Sally Brown Deskins, is an Honor Book for the 2015 Nebraska Book Award. Her essay on long distance cycling “Seven Cities of Good” is an honorable mention for the Pacific Literary Review’s 2015 Creative Nonfiction Award.
Adam Wagler holds an M.A. from UNL, a B.F.A. from Iowa State University’s College of Design that included a semester abroad at Swansea University in Wales, and a Ph.D. from UNL. He is a computer geek who loves to ride his bike, make stuff, cook, and travel.
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