She hears them first:
The whirr of freewheels and shining chains,
A brake’s shrill shriek of indignation
A volley of clicks
As cleats pop from pedals.
Familiar as church bells
Summoning him to his devotions.
And here they are,
Congregating in the driveway
Like geese in the meadow;
Migrant birds, bright in winter plumage,
Summer’s hard edges hidden
By soft-brushed Roubaix and crisp Gore-Tex.
In their Monday-to-Friday suits and ties,
Stripped of helmets and dark glasses,
She’d hardly know them.
He goes to them
And, with one foot left in the world he shares with her,
Waves a gloved hand,
Then crosses into somewhere
She’s never been.
In his jersey pocket
Is the cake she made him,
Carefully wrapped in foil.
Cleats snap like starting-pistols
And the little peloton rolls away
Leaving only tyre-prints like pencil lines
And a gauzy laughter contrail.
He said something about
A long one.
But then, it always is with those boys.
He’ll be back for lunch
Like a man home from the hunt,
Big with life, all his strength expended
Barely holding the blood and fire in
After fifty miles.
She pours more tea, butters toast,
Sinks into the sofa and the Times
Doesn’t hear the sirens.
NB No cyclists or their partners were harmed in the making of this poem. But just because something never happened doesn’t mean it’s not true.