What we did that summer evening
was turn our bicycles upside-down
so the seats were on the ground
and the wheels in the air—
then we twirled the pedal round and round
till knuckles and fingers were white
and we couldn’t make out individual spokes:
just a silver blur and an incremental hum
as the wheel sang the song of its appetite.

What we did next was feed the wheel flowers,
flowers not worth putting in a crystal vase
—Trifolium, Dandelion, Queen Anne’s Lace—
flowers that thrived on parental neglect
in the unkempt grass by the utility shed
as if to affirm Britannica on weed:
any plant growing where it is not wanted.

Who would be afraid of an idle wheel that spat
out handfuls of ragtag flowers, already half dead?
And the bleeding stalks left a stinging answer
in the summer air: perfume we’d count on ever
after—to keep coming at us stronger than before.        

Lynne Saughter went first; she thrust in dandelions;
then Bruce Edwards, a single budding clover:
the only sign we’d get that his own tousled head
would test the metaphor’s might just two weeks later
when wheels would screech and metal do its work
a few miles west off Willow Pass Road.

It was starting to get dark on Mount Diablo.
We flipped our bicycles right-side-up
and raced around the cul-de-sac like maniacs,
or Dante’s damned, or Milton’s falling angels,
getting high on the last drops of Daylight Savings
until parents cried, Allee, Allee, In-Free.

Later we fell asleep thanking Schwinn,
Rollfast and whatever gods may be
for the night, the mountain and the wheel
within a wheel—like love, like magic,
like a spell to help us keep our balance,
and make up for bald tires,
as we cycle to the valley floor.

   from Counterpoint

-- David Alpaugh
Sixth Horse

Six horses in a field of tropical fodder 
that curled up to their thick and burly knees.
Six heads plunged in rain-fed greenery, their manes 
flopping forward over long muscled necks 
except for the one that picked up and looked me over 
across the way, in the hazy mid-day shine.  

His dun rump gleamed like taffy. Was he 
the designated dealer-with-men? Trying to discern  
whether I proffered a carrot, sugar lumps or an apple 
or some island favorite—  lilikoi, green papaya, 
cucumber, tat soi. We are capable of surprising them 
by turning up with treats, and they know that. 

So: some interest in my standing there 
wearing a shirt the colors of  sky and clouds, 
a Panama hat, buglike sunglasses scoping them 
as they grazed. The only move I made 
was one slow tai chi Part the Wild Horse Mane, 
my two feet still while my two palms glided 
past each other through the air. The watcher 
sank his head back into the sea of grass. 

Now and then each one hiked a back hoof 
to stamp off flies. Six tails switching – 
useful tools, when midges and no-see-ums 
swarm to the rich bouquet of sweaty horseflesh. 
The built-in flyswat lets a body keep on feeding, 
with only now-and-then looks to clear the coast,  
or nose a brother to find out what he thought 
the manmonkey might be up to, over there 
across the fence, on its pitiful two legs 
waiting for a bunch of geldings in a field  
to point the way to heaven.

-- Calvin Ahlgren