Published in Boneshaker: The Bicycling Almanac
by Elizabeth Oxley
Jeans snarl in spokes, and I tumble
from my bicycle at yard’s edge. Summer
frogs gather, gullets pulsing a baritone hum,
start and stall of tiny engines. I pick gravel
from my knee. It is six years since the fall
of Saigon. At night, my parents fight
in their bedroom. When we leave my father,
it’s for a town with winding creeks, canted
cemetery hill where I lift my feet and coast,
tires running tight orbits. At school, we practice
sitting in hallways with our heads covered.
The wall comes down in Berlin. Students
pedal to Tiananmen Square, bodies sprawled
across our television. Saturdays, I ride
to play pinball at the gas station, hair tied back,
wind stroking my forehead. My legs burn
on the climb. I tug on handlebars to keep my balance.
It was my father who first held me steady
until I trusted the frame to carry me. He let go
with his hands, smiled and raised arms, trembling.