Ode to the Motorcycle
Not even parked in a proper garage,
you rest in a plywood shed, wheels half sunk
through the dirt floor. At fifteen, I wanted
more than the bitch seat as I rode two up
with a man twice my age, knowing only
to lean into turns— never how to steer
or shift or brake easy. I learned to wear
the gear— creased leather chaps, silver buckles—
not how to grease bearings and tighten bolts.
I longed for you even then: black and chrome,
the jolt of wet leaves, gusts, debris, oil slicks
that would teach me to close my grip, absorb
the shock, wait out the slide. Fifteen more years
would pass before I gathered the courage
to find you, ride you alone on summer
nights, gravel roads. By then I’d grown too old
to need four hundred pounds of steel to prove
my boldness, to prefer your rumbling roar
to the hushed gutturals of my own voice.
I’ll miss the heat rising from your engine,
the visor dark enough to let me hide.
Still, I’ve made my choice: five years you’ve rusted,
crusted over with webs and pollen, soft
parts split open where the mice nest. Thank you
for reminding me how I let you die:
beast that would have helped me flee my troubles,
that would have rattled numb my fists, my thighs,
would have sent me round the bend, let me fly.
This selection comes from Jennifer Perrine’s collection No Confession, No Mass, available from University of Nebraska Press. Purchase your copy here!
Jennifer Perrine is an associate professor of English and directs the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Drake University. Perrine is the author of In the Human Zoo, recipient of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry.
Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.
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