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bike rides




Iowa fields tumbling by 

in and out of summer weeks

I sailed down country highways

that loved me

and my 10-speed best of all


My ride arrived

without me 

setting sail 

in and out of years, free

range, free

for all



never fancy

no cover charge

no lifeguards

no gas stations

the walls toppled by the world all around


D rides a bike

he sees the black and white

swerves back down the block

splits traffic

ditches the bike

takes off on foot

He is running, running

but not fleet-footed

not free

They don’t call it a collar for nothing

This one gets the 16-shot salute

dies face down

limp lunged

They say he lunged

for the 9 millimeter

as it tumbled from a green towel


I say black becomes him

cap, gown, tassel tossed leftward

Sure, heaven has its share

of still-hot suppers

But the day he got his diploma

D ate cake

maybe for a moment remembered 

his mom, remembered

broad South Central street 

surge and swerve

never a windward day






W pedals 

faster and faster

down down down

spring sodden night alley 


Once he gave the cops

his brother’s name

You don’t look 

like a Henry, I said

You don’t look 

like a Mexican, he said

So he got a ticket 

for jaywalking

to grab a burger at Jim’s

I got a good laugh and

a nickname for W


Meth never made W mad

He still loved math

He just came around less

I can’t take a lecture, he said

Fair enough, I said

This wasn’t his hood

so a slow roll

in and out of weeks

became our good bye 


That night

he veered sharp

but couldn’t outpedal

bullet barrage to the back

We thought he had a gun,

the cops shrugged


I pressed my face

into a chain link fence

I didn’t want anyone

to see me cry

W wasn’t one for sentiment

He only smiled 

when I called him Henry






You rolled up old school

to grab a bite on Avalon,

lanky-limbed on a

three-sizes-too-small dirt bike

Deep inside that hoodie 

your stowaway smile flashed, 

peppered peach summer sunset sky


I never took the rage for real

Like you always said

if you see them first

they don’t see you


Home was where that smile landed

so you kept it close

You pined for her

No-way-at-all that day on Avalon

and all the days since we first met,

or so you said

All pop-pop-pop and chivalry, 

you never stopped pining for her

You stayed steady in your last

goodbye corner kiss

She never saw red light run through

You never not seeing her

wouldn’t couldn’t didn’t see 

mundane magic of 

potential, intelligence, college-bound

high school hallways & homecoming

A joke that I should even try

but see, I made you laugh, see

your flyaway smile again


Later anyone could see on video

cops cornering wild-eyed

crow-bar wielding kid

on someone’s front porch

Anyone could read how you

tossed the crow-bar aside 

plucked purple-petaled aster

stretched your arm out toward them

more peace offering than surrender

But no one can explain

why they met that blossom

with mace, clubs, taser, 

concrete bone crunch

No one can hear

your last gasp

as she reaches past the aster

grabs your hand,

smiling as you fall 


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