Bike Gang

We grew up in the countryside

riding our bikes barefoot

through a maze of tangled bush

drowning in mosquitoes.

We perched on tippy-toe

with the balls of our feet

on the bar between the pedals’ teeth,

sinking our weightlessness into

the built up pads on

the soles of our feet,

like a pack of wild dogs.


Our legs were like branches

broken off a young tree,

riddled with bug bites and

lean like rifles, carried

by beaten down soldiers

in some long-forgotten war.


We weren’t women yet

though at the age when

the warnings have not yet begun,

and parents waver.

Should we tell our daughters or not? Should they be told?

In the absence of fear we stilled, and

our afternoons were long

and leisurely.


We walked, too

along the railway tracks

listening to the crunch of the rocks

between the ties.

You could hear a train coming,

of this we were warned:

a train can sneak up on you

run you over

slice you in two

like a balogne and margarine sandwich.


We walked and walked

before stopping and

putting our ears to the track

to listen for the ping ping ping

sound of a train coming,

our small ears

growing warm from the heat

of the rails.


It’s coming!

I'd make an immediate dash from the track,

a dive into the ditch

as though the train could come

instantly on top of me

200 miles per hour,

and drag me under its wheels.


One day we heard it,

the train

thundering towards us.

She - my oldest sister-

she stayed right up at the track

crouched on those crunching rocks,

still,

like a hunter

like cat

ready to pounce, and

up she whooped and hollered,

screeching at the conductor

like a little crow until

he waved to us,

a pleased smile on his face that said

children still do this, roam the countryside.


But my arm could only pull itself lamely.

A most pathetic wave.

Shameful.


I knew that if not for my sister,

the conductor wouldn’t have seen us at all.

No one noticed this tepid approach

to the world but me.

I felt it in my body's limbs,

heavy,

like an illness.


© Christy Frisken

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