They tell me any idiot can do it and I tell them

I’m not just any idiot, I am specific. Even when my lungs

are bursting – properly bursting

like things dragged up by that Russian deep-sea fisherman

I keep riding.               I get tired.                    I just keep riding!

People who drive talk about how great it is

to get out of the city. They drive to new cities

so they can get out of those cities.

Cities coagulate around drivers to try to stem the wound,

stop them leaving. I could become a valued member

of the resistance. I could drive aggressively at the city

to make it move down, like a conductor yelling into a packed carriage.

I ride along the street outside your house

with my heart flapping loose and getting chain grease on it.

I’d just like to be able to pick you up from the airport

or drive a medium-sized dog around.

I’d like to buy some small trees and drive them home

in companionable fragrance.

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people

and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing

asked Kerouac. That’s your conscience

telling you that you’re yet another problematic single-driver

automobile on the road

and you should turn around and let those people carpool with you.

Jack, let me attach a bike rack to your boot.

Fears coagulate around me to try to stop me driving.

A man flicks on his windscreen wipers at their most aggressive speed

to deter the squeegee bandits at the intersection.

I keep riding.               I’m tired.                     I have to find

a good pole to lock this to.

Years coagulate around me to try to stop me leaving.

The world flicks on its high-speed windscreen wipers to deter me.

The only good ride was when you were on your bike too,

coming downhill

and we passed each other

and yelled ‘Hey!’ at the exact same time.

When I walk I imagine throwing myself in front of buses

to punish them for being late. When I ride I brace myself

for drivers to barge right into the shoulder

and plaster me into the leaves like a chip packet.

Why don’t I just cycle directly into my coffin and be buried

with my learner licence, which expired in 2011?

I yell that. I see drivers expand and shrivel and expand

like octopuses in motion and I envy them

being able to shapeshift deep inside their personal oceans.

I’d like to be able to pick you up from your new place

or take you there sometimes.

You can always make your own way from the airport

but I’d like to transport some small trees, a marrow, a table.

I’d like to have a table to stand on, to stretch up into a tree.

The small trees will grow into trees that overhang public footpaths

and slap my head good-humouredly as I ride under them.

A dog will hang its head out your window as you go by

its slow mouth saying something important to me in a dream, but I

won’t remember.

It will be great to get out of the city.

Get to another city, pull ourselves free, get out of that city

and the city is watching us go, shaking its fist; but we’re just specks dispersing.

About ashleighlou

Person, usually on bike
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7 Responses to Driving

  1. Mark Hubbard says:

    I can’t stand living in cities (don’t mind visiting for the odd meal) so driving equals freedom, yes 🙂

    But you wouldn’t have had this poem is you’d not let your learner licence lapse.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Vaughan Henry says:

    I’ve been looking all summer for a bike rack/ to carry the dreams of my youth/ back into the future / the specks of the past looming ever larger / in my face / the oncoming train of inevitability / you tell me / be practical, get real / my eyes are moist / the grass is brown and swimmers leave their bikes in a heap and dive off the rocks in slow arcs / the distant splash freezes in my veins.


  3. annethecoach says:

    thank you for this poem Ashleigh. It made me smile lots with recognition and pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on becoming an Honorary Literary Fellow, Ashleigh. I confess to only having read this poem of all your work – I will definitely read more – but it is ample testimony to your rare gift with words (sorry for the cliche). You are not ‘just any idiot’ indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kerrythe says:

    This line makes my heart thump:

    “Cities coagulate around drivers to try to stem the wound,
    stop them leaving. I could become a valued member
    of the resistance. I could drive aggressively at the city
    to make it move down, like a conductor yelling into a packed carriage.”

    And I, too, feel like this when riding my bike around Cape Town.

    Fantastic writing, as always!


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