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Saturday, June 19, 2010

a child of the road

the day i gripped the bare metal handlebar
of my friend's mini bike
was the first day i felt
the true wind in my face
the rat tat tat tat of the
little motor that burned my leg
through my gasoline and oil stained pants
its power sluggishly perfect
as i twisted the throttle with my right hand
i knew then i was ruined forever

we ran it up and down
the dirt road to his home
a million times
we'd have to drag our feet to stop it
or sometimes run it up against a tree
we rode hard and laughed harder
until after the sun had set
and kenny's father came out to get him for supper
i'd walk the two dark miles home and feel contented
cleaned out

i soon was to learn
that my father did not share
my love of motorcycles
he forbade me to have one
or to go riding with friends
he hated anything
that traveled on two wheels
or was it that he hated
anything that brought me joy
one more chasm in our widening relationship
for i would find ways to go

one day he caught me
riding a sharp red and white yamaha twin jet
on the outskirts of town
its shiny deep paint
made no difference to him
with anger in his face
he told me to return it
to whoever it belonged to
and to get myself home
he never found out
it was mine

i garnered an ally
a kid being raised
by his brother
so that i could buy the ragged bultaco
with the faded red tank
which barely ran
and hide it there
the first of many
motorcycle mongrels
i'd buy and sell
and hide
until i'd wear out my welcome
and move on

then came bronson
and fonda and hopper
and the long roads became shorter
to me and my bike
i'd sneak myself away
for a day or two
destination not cared
ride to a new place
on the endless black ribbon
that stretched far beyond my front wheel
and sleep in a park
or a campground with no blanket
and live like a gypsy

the first time i rode across the state line
i felt a welcoming arizona furnace
gently roasting my chest and my arms
a benevolent wind blew
dry and different in my face
and made straws of my hair
the arid clean smell
of creosote perspiring
attacking my nostrils
it was then that i learned
the warmth of a smiling heart
trumps the brilliance
of the white desert sand

now when summer approaches
i spend wonderstruck hours
with my nose in a map
no need to make sense
of this arcane lust to wander
for my mind is a child's
awake and wide open
to the newness of every mile
to hear the doctrines and beliefs
of the people i'll meet
the shepherds
the innkeepers
the tavern owners
who will unknowingly teach me
a child of the road

Michael B

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