Teen spirit

I envy them their energy
Insouciance and ignorance
Ability to stay up late
And lie in later;
I covet their unclouded eyes
Their narrow waists
And knees that don’t complain
On autumn mornings.
But most of all I’m jealous of
Their hair:
Thick and lustrous
As the new spring grass,
With scope to sculpt, the heft to gel and flick,
Strong and shining
Packed full of pro-B vitamins and promise.
While I
Submit meekly to the clippers
And an undebated scalping,
All thought of style,
Like the substance,
Long lost and brushed away.

 
 

Youth. Truly wasted on the young. N.

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More cinquains

What fools
We were to think
The First would be the last:
Now April’s lunacy lives on
In May.

The flag
Will lose its blue
And then the red will fade
Till all we’ll have to hoist will be
The white.

Perhaps
When all of this
Is done we will look back
And say that it was right, and good.
Some hope.

Come back
You Viking hordes,
Dread knights of Normandy:
Your swords would wound less deeply than
These cuts.

So. Now
A Grendel stalks
Our land. Come, Beowulf:
Rise from the page and save us from
Ourselves.

With local elections this Thursday, and the hideous spectre of next month’s general election haunting the nation, I decided to cheer myself up with another round of cinquains, aimed at what now passes for democracy in these isles. Pleased to report that I’m feeling much better. As Sir Thomas More astutely noted: ‘The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.’ N.

Unfair advantage

We’re all at it
Though we don’t admit it.

No need for needles
Or PEDs
No brandishing of TUEs:

To ride
Is to cheat –

Gravity
Friction

Fear
Death

Age
Time –

And every day
I try my luck

To see how much
I can get away with

And so far I’ve never
Been caught

Yet.

 

In his classic collection of essays Need for the Bike (or Besoin de Velo in the original French) my cycling-literary hero Paul Fournel says: ‘Thanks to the bike, there is a faster man. The bike is in itself a form of doping. Which doesn’t simplify things.’ Amid the scandals forever swirling around the sport, it’s good to remind ourselves that the bike is innocent, untainted, honourable and, as Paul goes on to say: ‘the tool of natural speed…the shortest path to the doubling of yourself. Twice as fast, two times less tired, twice as much wind in your face. It’s always right to want more.’  And I do. Time to go riding. N.

TUE = Therapeutic Use Exemption; a doctor’s note authorising the use of a prohibited substance. Controversial, to say the least. PED = performance-enhancing drug.

Spoke too soon

 

Blast-frozen like a cut-price chicken,
Face flayed red and fingers numb;
Feet reduced to frosted nuggets
One mile down. And more to come.
 
No heater, windows, roof or doors
To shield me from this easterly
Whetted to a razor’s edge
And driving in relentlessly.

But let it do its worst. I’m rolling,
Motor running smooth and fast.
Engineered for harsh conditions;
Forged and tempered. Built to last.

The rain it raineth…

More rain. Each drop that falls
Is a cold, hard reason
To play it safe today and stay inside.

An instinct to protect
Inculcated early;
A holy wisdom, faithfully applied.

But in every silver splash
I glimpse an eye that slyly winks
Inviting me to hang it all – and ride;

To tell the child within
Not to heed that warning voice,
And revel in the freedom to decide.

 
 

Strange as it may seem, I actually love riding in the rain. There’s something empowering and uplifting about being out in conditions that keep others indoors – and in knowingly, deliberately, joyfully getting wet and filthy, which my mother always told me not to do! As has often, and rightly, been said: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. N.

Dirt

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Dirt, sure. But not the ground-in grime
Of long neglect,
The careless patina of time
And disrespect;
No nameless filth, no gnawing rust
To stain and blight;
No petrified, cemented crust
Of oversight –

No: these are battle honours, scars
Earned in the field
That tell, through long and bitter wars,
We did not yield
But faced down Winter’s worst, and won.
So let them stand
Until a cleansing, reborn sun
Reclaims the land.

+365

A sawblade year:
The high points silver-bright, diamond-hard;

And in between
Ravines notched deep in time
Where I lost sight of life
And all sense of myself.

Now all its instances
Combine to cut another length
Precisely measured
From the narrow beam I balance on

And bring the rough and splintered end
More sharply into view.