Pedaling Backward

I swipe spider-silk from weblike spokes;
oil the chains and gears; banish scabs of rust; pump up tires;
and don a helmet I never used to wear—
my favorite thing each first ride of spring
was wind through my hair.
I used to ride all over.

Now I’m riding a bicycle for the first time
in twenty-five years.
But something’s wrong—the pedals move
backward. I used to pedal backward for fun,
but this is different—the harder I push, the farther back I go,
traveling a path through someone else’s memories.
Faster, faster . . . the years blur in scores,
then begin to slow.

At a red light
I watch a friend cross the street.
My old friend! I’m traveling through my past after all.
She’s young again, and I am, too.
Except I know things, like what happened
to our friendship.
We used to bicycle to each other’s houses,
sometimes bearing poems. We’d get close,
then wheel apart, in different circles—
I wish I’d realized I liked hers more than mine.

We’d always find each other. Once in the dark,
we danced improv by candlelight in a glass room—night
pressed against the wall of windows—reflections of flames: burning stars.
Without touching, electricity flew between us.
Later, we’d speak of this, but did it bring us closer?
Why did we stop seeing each other?

The grasses move ≈ a hypnotic moiré.
Green light—and suddenly I’m riding forward,
past a swath of Queen Anne’s Lace—weedy and royal.
Cattails sway by the waves of the Sound.
Out of the mist the Cubist City rises.

I’m speeding forward, but my mind’s racing back
to Friday nights: memories conflate—she’d skate
a figure-8 while playing the violin.
Later, wearing peasant blouses we’d draw with our Rapidographs—
my mirror image, her pictures made with her left hand.

Words erupted when we met again later—we confided:
breakups, breakdowns, picking up the shards,
creating new mosaics, we couldn’t fit each other in
the reconfigurations.

Laura Glenn