“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.” — Christopher Morley
Those bicycle poems keep showing up. I rounded up a first post and within about two days spotted the next one. I don’t go searching for these; they drop into my lap like ripe berries as I read poetry every morning, or when someone shares one with me.
As with the first collection of bicycle poems and my collections of transportation poems, these aren’t necessarily poems “about” bicycling. Bicycles appear in them because they’re in our lives, and because of what they represent: joy, freedom, independence, growth, movement, memories. The bicycle reference may be only the lines I’ve shared here, so prepare for an eclectic reading experience if you work through all of these in a sitting.
Asking for suggestions on social media brought me a couple of poems I can’t find online to link to. One is well into its public domain life. The other, by David H.W. Grubb, is from his poetry collection It Comes with a Bit of Song. Getting the book from the one source I could find would run me over $50 and have a global carbon footprint; the person who suggested that poem was kind enough to take a picture of the page and share it with me and I’ve transcribed it below. British readers, you may be able to track down an actual print copy of the book.
“Franklin Avenue in March” by Maya Stein
Maybe it’s because
it’s the day before spring, or maybe it’s because it’s true what they say about bicycles,
“Courage” by Anne Sexton
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
“Not Forgotten” by Sheila Packa
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn’t know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
“To a Daughter Leaving Home” by Linda Pastan
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
for your life, screaming
“Mimesis” by Fady Joudah
wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
“push/pull” by Maya Stein
The boys are fighting over who gets to drive the car. I want to tell them:
There are two lonely bicycles in the garage. Or, Your legs aren’t getting any younger.
“Pray for Peace” by Ellen Bass
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.
“you’re not crazy” by Maya Stein (who often has bikes in her poems)
the two thousand miles of a bike path along the Mississippi
that you conjure from your window seat at 30,000 feet and say, “Why not?”
“Latent” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Riding our bikes through the warm summer night,
the dark itself parted to let us pass;
wind in our hair, soft whir of the wheels—
“Snow Geese Land Beyond the Tree Line” by Linda Blasky
their wings sound like a peloton of bicycles passing.
“Morning Song” by Dorianne Laux
…for each of us there is
some small sound like an unseen bird or
a red bike grinding along the gravel path
that could wake us, and take us home.
“In Case the Distances Do Not Meet” by David H.W. Grubb
(with appreciation to Patrick Daniel for sharing this via Mastodon)
Somewhere I have left my bicycle, between a memory of blue and the hidden shades of childhood dreams. There was always a song there and the adult language and the Bible to tip you over and language muttering between closed doors and the flash of windows. Priests flood the memory and teachers who wished they were inventors and the names of the fabulous dead who made love between meaning and discovery and what was hidden behind alphabets and poetry and secret gardens and the discipline of turn ups and Sunday best and spit and polish and boys who went to wars as if that was what they were born for. Somewhere I have left my bicycle between nettles and the polite laughter of uncles and the sighs of fathers and the days when it snowed for a week and one went out into the garden to meet Scott in his tent of death and read the last diary entry and looked into the minds of those who were still waiting for nightingales and cliff top winds and the keys to the gates of secret forests.
“Song of the Cycle” by Will Carlton
Written in 1878, suggested by Fiona Campbell @FionaBikes via Twitter
Good morning, fellow cyclists, here’s a warm fraternal hand,
As, with a rush of victory, we sweep across the land!
If some may be dissatisfied to see the way we ride,
We only wish their majesties could travel by our side!
For we are pure philanthropists, unqualified philanthropists,
And would not have this happiness to anyone denied;
We claim a great utility that daily must increase
We claim from inactivity a sensible release;
A constant mental, physical and moral help we feel,
That bids the true enthusiast cry, “God bless the wheel!”