The Bike in the Ditch
The wheels were buried to the axle,
and poison ivy twined the frame.
No one touched it, not even
maintenance men. It testified
to transience. Most of us knew waking to
a father solemnly leaving with suitcases
in hand, the lies parents told to smooth
the emptiness. We had seen the teenager
pass on a gurney after huffing gas,
face white as bone—he’d been leaving
his body, leaving his parents for years.
It always stopped what we were doing;
a boy running to the ditch to retrieve
the baseball would pause and wonder
at the tendrils of spoke, the last vestiges
of seat stuffing as if he could read
the movement there he sometimes
felt at the edge of sleep when the world
slipped out from under him and he woke
frantically clutching the sheets. As we grew
older we would sit on the grassy verge
and smoke while another family loaded
a moving truck with cheap furniture,
happy faces going wherever you go
when you’ve used up time in one place.
We’d flick the burning butts at the frame
as if the thing might light, as if we might
ignite the rust forming inside it.