Sunday, April 24, 2011

Out Of The Gate

Out of the Gate

My bike was a pony once.
Lacking all originality,
I called her Buttermilk, after
Dale Evans’ fairy buckskin,
but after all, I was only

We rode the trails of north chicago
cantered through long-armed elm-roofed tunnels,
barely escaping their scrabbling fingers,
across acres of glass-strewn treacherous
desert concrete, along the weedy mountain ridge 
of the el. She picked her way with intelligent care, 
one delicate black hoof after the other
through the perilous car-infested rapids
of sheridan road.

Wherever we roamed on that big range
she never let me down.
She stayed like a quarterhorse
when I dropped the reins
and ran like a thoroughbred out of the gate
when I raced her with Donny
whose bike had no name at all.

Now I’m on a new pony, waiting
at the gate, under a leafless roof
looking down the long stretch,
sitting slumped in the saddle
surrounded by fences,
no legs to pump the peddles
but, still…

I wonder how fast
she can go?

April 2011

Posted for OneShootSunday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry 

Title Image: Photo by Greg Laychak


  1. I SO LOVE THIS ONE!!!! Love the remembvered freedom and speed of childhood, atop one's steed. And, being hampered at the moment by an under-functioning leg, I just love the wondering at the end, still, about "how fast she can go?" I have seen so many silver heads in wheelchairs, traveling in their memories back to faster-moving days. This is just lovely and heart-lifting. And also SEES the person in the wheelchair as a person. Thank you so much!

  2. What a great imaginative ride! So very creative, yet oh so sad. Though I must admit, the title under the pic made me chuckle. Anyway, I particulary like when you combine imagery and melody, such as
    "She stayed like a quarterhorse
    when I dropped the reins
    and ran like a thoroughbred out of the gate"
    Smooth and vivid. Awesome, JA.

  3. delightful, darlin. all steeds should have a name. i saw a little gal yesterday with a very cool pink bike. she's havin all the fun, i think...

  4. nice how you take that early life and then bring it into horses yet still got a little spunk...race it!

  5. Great take on the prompt. I still wonder how fast they can go...even when I'm not driving them. Years of racecars under my feet and five in the floor ready to zooom. Thanks Joy and Happy Easter.

  6. Giddy Up!!!

    Happy Easter JA...

  7. Absolutely gorgeous, Joy. Thank you for transcending this abysmal prompt for an Easter Sunday, and bringing so much light to it. As a veteran of a wheelchair universe I can tell you that we have inner lives. xxxj

  8. I love your take on the picture!

  9. i love the bike called buttermilk (my daughter's bike has also a name..and she's 20 now...) and that you blend in the memories of the youth and you lighten it up with these last two lines...some of the old ladies can go quite fast still...

  10. Beautiful description, "..cantered through long-armed elm-roofed tunnels.." And a great ending!

  11. I love the vibe! I think this is the last one I am reading tonight!

  12. oh, so love this...I often hope that I shall have that spunk when all the fire is supposed to be gone... "I wonder how fast / she can go?" absolutely, fabulous end!

  13. Wonderful piece... love the pull of the open range, cantering beneath the long forgotten soul.

  14. Poignant and moving. A very creative response to what was a challenging prompt.

  15. James Hillman suggests we are born like acorns, with our life's fullness and fate intact from first yowl and fart. The forms may change - trike, wheelchair -- but the gallop's the same. I think i got my early-morning habit from bolting from bed to go watch "Roy Rogers" on our TV in Winnetka. Rode in a tricycle train in pre-school, Tonto to some other kid who was Roy Rogers. Dale so heartbreakingly pretty on her white horse, the Rhiannon I've chased all these years only to find she was looking for me. Rock n roll was a gallop, writing is a gallop (astride a sea-horse), dying too will be a gallop down eternal Happy Trails .... Loved the narrative style of of this poem, sticking to the story, eschewing poetic formalities. You got me there .... Brendan

  16. So empowering. Also, Chicago as wilderness is fantastic. May we all ride our bike ponies into the sunset as fast as our legs can pedal.

  17. Wonderful to hold on to that imagination- nice one!

  18. A rare dream - kids don't imagine this anymore, but we still can...

  19. Love the spirit and execution of this.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats