Richard Long: Three Poems

Image by Manolo Franco from Pixabay

The Names of Ghost Bikers There we are, we rise from asphalt roads, and cars rush away, leaving us for dead. And we are the dead, sprawled on the shoulder, our necks snapped like the seat posts of our bikes. Our gear is scattered—a tent flutters above the fields of Kansas, a butane stove glows in the Great Basin, a taillight blinks over the summit of Tioga Pass, a bicycle map drops like a hawk from Big Sur. Still, suddenly light, we rise, the mangled frames of ghost bikes wobbling along the heaven of roads. Marantha, Rāfe, ‘Anders—we ghost bikers—come at you in your mirrors to ride with you face to face.

First Sighting

I confess to lifting Alexa from her stroller, throwing her up, and catching her as gravity delivered her back. But what I remember is she must have gained something during her time aloft, and what matters is she was pointing to nothing up there, mouthing Ghost moon. She likely remembers little of that, much less of me, for having passed from the language of the living— words diminish, what love could have mattered means less than the specter in a faded photograph. What matters is I passed from language into— some nights a knock. A shuffle. Of course, a moan. I confess I’ll ride my bike humming out of the fog. I’ll remember Alexa is now grown, she is at a window, seeing through the fog only as far as Boy ‘Anders crossing the road. She’ll wonder why in the world does he stop on the shoulder and wave as if someone is looking at him.

An Assembly of Animals

How could they have forgotten me? The dog that froze to death under the house? The frog I razored open to watch the heart beat? The goat I hauled to the creek? Yesterday when I was broken on the shoulder of the road, all the roadkill came running with them down oblivion. They assembled by my side and waited for the three horses of kindness to pass over. Concern like a breath and silent as a ghost bike moving to nowhere important.

Richard Long is a Professor of English in St. Louis, Missouri, where he also edits 2River, quarterly publishing The 2River View and occasionally publishing individual authors in the 2River Chapbook Series. Poems of his have appeared recently in Black Coffee Review, Parhelion, Red Wheelbarrow, Travel Artists Hub, and UCity Review.

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