Solo

Perfect
In every note,
Bow arm strong and supple;
Eyes closed, lost in concentration,
You own this space, command our attention;
The music and moment are yours.
Wild applause. My heart swells.
Everything is
Perfect.

 
 

This is my first crack at rictameter, which I’d never heard of until today. Nine lines; start with two syllables, then four, then six, eight and finally 10, before counting down again to the same two syllables you first thought of. My subject, once again, is my wonderful daughter, who played a magical violin solo at her school concert last night. N.

Raptor

He rides high over the wood,
A black cross carved
On a flat, cold sky:

The wind and all the world
Turn with a twist
Of his curved flight feather;

His weapons ready –
Beak, eye, wing and talon
Sharp and clean.

What I would give
For his lone completeness,
Such unweighted, spare perfection;

While I am bound and grounded
By this jealous, grasping earth
And all its superfluities.

Lifesaver

Two dozen miles
Of knowing self-immolation:
Burning all the matches

Then digging deep
And burying myself
In the road.

A quick way out
That ends my pain
And helps keep me alive.

 
 

It’s been a stressful week, so I went out and left it all on the road yesterday. It hurt like hell, but that was exactly what I wanted and needed. Best part was holding off two guys on fancy carbon road bikes, who tried (and failed) to catch me in a five-mile, all-out drag race. Just like old times. And boy, it felt great. N.

Hellish

I do not need to stand with them
In la grande place in Compiègne

Like men before a firing squad
Waiting for the flag to drop:

I know what lies in wait for me
Out on that sunny, flower-fringed road;

The broken pavé of my mind
Holds fears and traps and falls enough;

An endless Arenberg of fears
And sickly doubts; each secteur strewn

With loose, uneven thoughts, all poised
To rip my wheels from under me;

My every bone and muscle braced
For the sudden twist that smashes me

Face-first into the cobblestones
Dry-drowning in the drifting dust.

Yet I’ll go on. This is the course
That life has set for me to ride.

And I will conquer, live to tell
My story from the road through hell.

 
 

A poem for the day of Paris-Roubaix, the most infamous of the one-day Spring Classics in northern France and Belgium. Known as l’Enfer du Nord (‘The Hell of the North’) for its fearsome cobblestones, it was immortalised in the compelling 1976 documentary A Sunday In Hell by Danish director Jørgen Leth. Although my ride yesterday was as benign as Paris-Roubaix is brutal, life as it is at the moment ensured I had plenty to think about. N.

Restoration

To see it now
In all its buffed, perfumed
Straight-from-the-shop perfection

I can almost forget
The weary, oily wreck
It was a week ago.

Tight, smooth, noiseless,
New parts softly shining,
Stripped of winter’s grease and grime

Spring-clean and ready
For long escapades
On sun-shimmering roads.

My one bright hope
That under all the filth and ruin
Not everything is lost.

 
 

My day-to-day work bike has been in the shop this week for its annual service, in the expert hands of Harvey and Luke. After a hard winter, it needed the chain, cassette, brake pads and gear cable replaced, so it wasn’t cheap; but it’s essentially a new bike again, with all the sensory pleasures that brings, and worth every last penny. And heading out for the first shake-down ride yesterday, I felt like part of me had been restored, too. N.

Fin

This is the end.

When all I’ve been
Consider myself
And thought I’d be forever
Is stripped from me;
All we’ve built
Torn down and trampled
All we’ve won
Blithely discarded
All we might have been
Dismissed and signed away.
A different sun will rise tomorrow;
A new night fall when all is done.

And this
Is just
The beginning.