How to Ride a Bike
This is how you ride a bike. This is how you get to the city dump, take Locust Street out past the beltline. This is how to keep the tires from sticking to the asphalt. This is how you let go of the handlebars when you coast downhill. Now close your eyes, let the wind rush past. This is how to let the sun burn through the top of your head. This is how you keep your balance. This is how you slow down, let your bare feet brush the tar. This is how you let the hurt in your stomach blossom out into your arms and legs. This is how to stop crying by holding your breath. Think back to your room just off the kitchen. This is how to close your pillow over your ears. When your dad starts yelling at your mom, imagine his words burbling up from the bottom of a pool. When he slams his chair down and bangs the screen door shut after him, it’s just firecrackers. This is how to remember the smell of liver and onions sizzling on the stove. Think of your mother in her apron, how she never cries as her face crumples up. Don’t listen to anything you hear; it’s not important. Don’t let anyone know what you’re thinking. Don’t tell your friends anything. This is how to live in a house. This is how the world sounds from ten feet under. This is how to ride a bike. Remember to look straight ahead. Don’t let your legs cramp up. Don’t go out too far. This is how you dig gravel out of a scrape. This is how to yell with both hands cupped around your mouth. This is how to count backwards from the echo to tell how far away everything is. This is how to catch your breath, by pressing both hands to your chest. Don’t forget to take some water. Watch out for bees. Don’t go to bed angry. Don ‘t look so sad in pictures. Don’t look back.
Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. In 2001, he received an NEA Fellowship, and he has also received grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Journals in which his writing has appeared include Agni, American Literary Review, Chiron Review, Cottonwood, Hawaii Review, Hotel Amerika, Iowa Review, North American Review, and Southern Poetry Review.
His books include In Passing (Grisaille Press, 2011), THE BIG BOOK OF WHY (Cobble Hill Books, 2008), Winter Light (Four Way Books, 1999) and Where Everyone Is Going To (St. Andrews College Press, 1999).
A Song for Gary