and roaring, pouring air;
Suspended by magic and iron laws
Between dawn and a day from hell.
But no matter
What I conjure
From this concatenation of curving tubes
Precision parts and spinning spokes
It will not suffice:
There’s no machine, no human power
That can outrun the onward rush
Of fate, events and time.
Yet while there is a road
Breath and blood, a rising sun
And I have strength and will enough
I’ll ride and rage, hurt and hope.
On my bicycle alone, I am perfectly balanced.
Maybe. Just have to see
How legs and heart
Feel when I start. Could be
They’ll baulk, rebel;
And though I beg and scold, just tell me:
You can go to hell
And we’re not coming.
Then again, could be they’re humming
Like a Swiss-made sewing machine
And strong, serene,
I’ll spin through town, into the great
Wide open; hill and mountain will prostrate
Themselves before me. One way to know:
Get on. And go.
And yet, I know there is another way:
A tangled net of narrow country lanes
And backroads I know better than myself
And could ride blindfold; every hill and wood
Each hedgerow, field and farmhouse; every curve
And corner as familiar as my face;
A constant heaven I can call my own
Where seasons roll yet decades leave no mark
My past and present blurring as I pass.
This road is in my head and heart and legs;
Its every inch is graven in my skin.
I’ve sweated through its summers, felt its chill
Chew through my clothing, biting at my bones.
And as all other things are lost, this place
Might be all that remains to me; a road
That I can always take on trust, forget
That hellish other beaten out for me.
Where I may live and wander as I choose.
A paradise that I can never lose.
Can we call
What we feel
For this melange
Of odd-shaped tubes and angles
And spider’s webs spun in silver steel
An asymmetric passion:
But no shared laughter, tedium or pain;
Enduring the same wild weather
Yet it knows no cold or drop of sweat;
And passing through
Those freezing instants
When time slows and life shrinks
To fractured bits of inches
And scattered shards of seconds
It alone is left untouched
By fear, and all that follows.
This bloodless, wordless better half
Makes us greater than ourselves;
Transports us back to lighter, swifter days,
Revives old glories
Banishes our ghosts
And pries time’s grasping fingers
From our limbs and hearts.
And if to be as one
Wanting nothing more
Content and all complete
Then I have found a form of it
And will go with it
To the end.
As if I needed another distraction, I’ve started a new blog devoted to my ‘current’ obsession…
See you there!
Delighted to announce that my little book goes on sale at amazon.com today – I’ve always dreamed of visiting the US, and still hope to some day, but at least now my words have made it over there, and that’s exciting enough! N.
Suddenly, a new power rises,
Liberating, tapping into
Unseen fundamental forces,
Bringing aid and hope of rescue.
Unexpected, out of nowhere,
One small spark. A new connection
Made, potential to kinetic,
Answers all my burning questions.
Surging, urging onwards, upwards
Higher, faster, far beyond my
Obstacles and limitations,
All the pain discharged, forgotten.
I will seize and ride the lightning
Take control then be conducted;
Follow where this current draws me
Remade and regenerated.
Behold the Volt Connect – the solution to my wrecked knees, made possible by a wonderful early birthday gift from my folks. It’s an e-bike, with an electric motor that gives me a choice of three levels of boost up the hills, but cuts out at 15.5mph (which in practice means on the flat and downhill). On the ‘High’ boost setting, climbing is virtually effortless, and takes all the strain off my joints. On ‘Eco’ mode, the battery is good for 70 miles or so, which is plenty for me! It’s very early days, but I’m a complete convert, and I think it’s going to be genuinely life-altering. Will keep you posted. N.
(BTW, the metre is trochaic tetrameter, best (or at least most famously) employed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in ‘The Song of Hiawatha’. I like it for its sense of relentless, forward energy, which seemed to go well with the subject!)
And so we reach
The end of our long road;
We saw the moment coming
Like rain over the sea
And for a while
We dodged and weaved
Found secret shortcuts
And pretended we could win.
But there were things
We never could outrun
Thought swift and strong
This race was never ours:
I will give best
To ruined bones and time
And let you go
I’ve had to let The Guv’nor go. My osteoarthritis has been giving me hell this summer, and riding this bike, with its hefty weight and only three gears, was doing me more harm than good. Given the state of my knees, it was probably a mistake to buy him, to be honest (perhaps I should have titled this End of an Error?) but we had some fantastic times together, and I have no regrets. I’m pleased to say His Nibs has found a truly excellent new home, but it’s still a wrench. Part of me has gone with him. N.
I don’t hold with heroes.
Too many times
I’ve seen my dreams defiled
And danced into the dust
By careless feet of clay;
Watched conquered summits crumble
Immortal deeds effaced
Glimpsed wicked eyes and sneering mouths
Behind the smiling masks
And spied the crack that runs right through
The highest pedestal.
But if I were to pick
A model for myself
It’s the guy who’s always out there
Grinding down the miles
And the gnawing teeth of Time
Into his eighth decade:
A life’s work scored deep in his limbs
A faithful record of each season
Etched sharply in his face.
Resisting all beguilement,
Easy wins and level roads;
Undaunted by the weather
Wearing wisdom lightly
Committed to the labour
Unknown, unsung and unremarked.
A quiet courage, steel-cored
That bends but never breaks.
And when the rest have quit the field
Looks round and smiles, renews his grip
Inspired by a fellow I met on the road yesterday. He was riding a fixie – a bike with just one gear and no freewheel mechanism, which means you have to keep pedalling the whole time, even going downhill – and I had a job keeping up with him. Apparently, he puts in over 2,500 miles a year on it, plus another 5,000 on his geared machines. And he’s 76. I want to be him one day (but not quite yet!) N.