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.
-- David Alpaugh
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