life cycle

How can it be that

after so many years
all those miles
half a lifetime willingly paid over

I can still forget that

after so many hours
all those words
hollowed out by all the hiding

I can repair all that

after just a moment
stolen from reality
with this magical machine.

And I am thankful that

after each forgetting
it is there to remind me
and pick me up again.

Missed a couple of days on the bike this week owing to poor weather and work commitments. Felt awful, darkness closing in etc. Went for a ride yesterday and things got themselves back into some kind of balance. Can’t understand why that surprised me; or why I so easily forget that, very often, that’s all it takes. Yes, I’m obsessed, and should probably be worried that my mental state is so bound up in whether or not I’ve managed to get out today. But I am absolutely certain that the bike has saved me from seeking solace in things that would be a lot worse for me; and I am so grateful to it for finding me all those years ago. (The pic is my much-loved Brompton outside the church in La Chapelle-au-Mans, Burgundy, on a very hot day back in June.)

in mundo inter mundos

A drowsing acre of rough-cut grass
walled off from the waking world.
Beneath pale stones, splashed with flowers
the founding generations mingle,
one with their home ground,
as their crisply chiselled names
bookended with joy and mourning
slowly soften with the seasons.

Spinning down to this quiet corner
from the village on the hill –
the home I left long years ago –
I find myself among old friends
see more familiar faces here than there;
my past interred in ordered rows.
And so I turn back to the road;
my world between two worlds.

Out of here

Maybe I’m dreaming
and all this scheming, screaming
madness in the land
dwells only in my spinning mind
and one day I’ll awake to find
it’s washed away like footprints in the sand.

So cruel and uncaring;
I’m despairing as they’re tearing
everything apart.
They take and take and never give:
tell me how I am meant to live
like this, bereft in soul and sick at heart.

I’m done with all the hating
baiting, dissimulating
hopelessness and pain.
So now I’m getting out of here:
switch off, drop out and disappear
to seek my peace out on the road again.

Time for change

A day to set the tarmac popping underneath my tyres;
A day sent straight from Lucifer and his infernal fires.
The smell of dust and molten rubber in the stifling air.
And some are going to die today; but you don’t seem to care.

It’s fine when I can stick to backroads under shady trees
Or racing down a long descent, creating my own breeze.
Compared to those indoors I know how fortunate I am;
But something’s gone profoundly wrong; and you don’t give a damn.

And still you prattle on about the wondrous things you’ll do.
A list of golden promises. And not one word is true.
So while we watch – scared, weary, sickened – as you play your games
Our country’s going down the drain – and our whole world up in flames.

To the sorry collection of idiots, incompetents, fraudsters, fanatics and fantasists currently vying to become leader of the Tory party and the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. All obsessed with tax cuts, culture wars, stroking division and refighting the Brexit battles; and not one of them will do a single solitary thing about the climate emergency. We can only hope that today’s record-breaking temperatures (set to exceed 40C in the UK for the first time ever) are a foretaste of what awaits them in the afterlife. It is the very least they deserve.

driven out?

I thought I might
go for a ride;
a short, easy spin
to clear the head
remind legs, lungs and heart
what this is all about.

But now
this simple, innocent act
is made political
pitting me against
the full inchoate outraged weight
of hate and spite and bile;

a target painted on my back
fear following me like my shadow
and I wonder when and how and why
we found ourselves
heading down this road
and what could turn us round.

Vanishing act

It would be so easy now
to simply disappear:

just turn off
a couple of sockets,
rip a few wires out of the wall,
feign deafness when the telephone shrieks,
leave the computer stone-cold, silent
and go.

I need no one’s permission,
require no licence,
warrant, pass or explanation:

I have only to will it
make that choice
and I can be
entirely
unreachable
untraceable
fall right out
of time and knowledge
be nothing more
than a man on a bicycle
you pass, glimpse
and instantly forget.

And only the instinct
to survive
is stronger than
the temptation.

a lonely war

You Hills have limits –
sides, slopes, summits –
I can measure and master
by muscle and mechanics.

Not so you, Winds:
without edges or apex
surrounding me, pounding me
tirelessly, full in the face.

But I’ll fight you –
together or one at a time –
with rage and resolve and refusal to quit
wherever, whenever you like.

Better you –
with your physics and physical pain
suffering to savour like single malt scotch
that ends when my feet touch the ground –

than the figments and phantoms
that stalk me inside
and I cannot outride, outwit or defeat
with training, or talent, or time.

Who but us

– the driven, the diehards
the hardy and hungry
the lifers, high-milers
the ones old enough to know better
or too young and eager to care;
the addicts and regulars
gripped by a habit
hard-wired and hard-won
that nothing and no one can break –

glories in going out there in this
when people with brains and ordinary lives
sit inside tutting and shaking their head
glad of the glass between them and the fear.

Who but us
pits muscles and bones
skin, blood and tissue
against fast-moving metal
the rush and the rage
of a world that would rather we didn’t exist.

Who but us
willingly, knowingly
always takes the longest way round
the hardest road home
spinning it out for a couple more miles
a few more minutes stolen and added to life.

The ones who go further
longer and deeper
not really caring if we’re understood
or that none of this makes any sense.

And while there’s a road
miles to be ridden
air to be breathed
who but us
would we want to be?

Plein air

IMG_0153

A sin to stop
Just six miles short of home
And sit on a slab of weathered wood
In the sun and set
A few words down on paper;
But what’s another moment stolen
From a day already plundered;
My conscience is as a clear
As the blackbird’s song
In the cherry tree
And the June sky I’d have missed
If I’d taken the other road.

Over the hill?

There’s really no need
To paint
SLOW
In large mocking letters
On this thirteen-percenter:
I’m not about
To flout the speed limit here;
It’s all I can do
To keep this small gear
Just going over
And my two wheels turning.
With legs and lungs burning
Approaching the top:
Can’t stop. Kicks up again:
More pain
Piled on. Now. Just one
More push and it’s done.
And suddenly
Gravity
Lets go of me
And I’m no longer quietly dying
But flying.