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Occasional Swerve by Dara Syrkin

A Lucky Park Production

Copyright Š 2011 by Dara Syrkin All rights reserved

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Tracks Occasional Swerve.............................................................6 Glimpse..............................................................................8 Warrior with a Falsetto........................................................9 Behind the Protection.......................................................10 On the Phone Before Their Next Rides............................11 Please Forgive Me...........................................................12 No Curves........................................................................13 Both Mirrors......................................................................14 Counting Hawks...............................................................16 One of the Family ............................................................18 What If I Forget?...............................................................19

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Occasional Swerve Go ahead. Take a good look. This ass rides on the back of a Harley. These jeans fling a leg over the black leather seat, cradle the man’s hips. These hands, in leather gloves, cup his waist, squeeze him on occasion. Leather to leather. Your ass will need training to ride behind a Harley guy. Hundreds of miles of bumpy road. The occasional swerve. Think. About how smart you were to buy good sunglasses, sunscreen, and moisturizer. How you’ll conceal hair melted beneath a helmet. How tough you look in those boots. Think about the next poem you’ll write or how your ailing mom is doing. 6


Or how much it hurts when she doubts you. And how much it must hurt when you doubt her. No. Stop. Go back to the sheer joy of wind. Cirrus clouds. Moon glow. Bear Butte. Cradling hips. His coppery beard gleaming in the sun.

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Glimpse Imagine this: The driver releases the grip of the motorcycle reaches back to touch what he can of you. At sixty miles per hour fellow travelers might miss their chance to be voyeurs. Get a sideways glimpse of desire. Envy the danger of need.

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Warrior with a Falsetto My Harley-guy friend listens to James Blunt— soldier turned singer, warrior with a falsetto. My friend won’t let himself cry. He believes if he opens the flood gates he will drown. After my mom died he held out an open arm to this weeping, middle-aged friend, let me crawl in his lap like the frightened child I was. When the time comes, will my lap be ready to hold him? Will he let me? Will we drown? 9


Behind the Protection The full-face helmet, now cut in half, was passed around the room, used as an example. In the motorcycle safety class we could see the dense foam innards and hard, but thin, shell outside. When it was whole, the helmet had been worn by our instructor’s brother when he crashed. The helmet showed little sign of impact. The brother’s head survived. “He still broke his nose,” the instructor said. We could see the science behind the protection. We couldn’t see the fear. Only the relief. 10


On the Phone Before Their Next Rides She said to him what she most wanted to hear. Wish you were here. Right now. You’re gorgeous. I love you. Put on your helmet.

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Please Forgive Me We brought our coffee to the shop’s outdoor table. How rude, I thought as he looked away from our conversation. He nearly stopped midsentence to look at each motorcycle driving by. Is he listening to me or just the rumble? Then I got my own bike. I’m listening. Really, I am. 12


No Curves She said No curves. I only like to pass when I can see for miles. So many variables: road condition vehicle power motorists’ wisdom. When to accelerate. How to gather faith.

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Both Mirrors She’s been immortalized in murals, photos, and country western songs Even you’ve sung “When you got a girl on the back of your bike…” You’ve felt her heartbeat her fingertips at your neck her fatigue her rage. What happens to you when she wants the scenery to change rides away on her own bike maybe yours?

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Your image straddling the yellow line shrinking in both mirrors.

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Counting Hawks My dad counted hawks on telephone poles fence rails in trees on power lines along the thousands of miles of his sales route. I took up Dad’s habit as I traveled from Minnesota to Texas to reach my friend. I always had a hawk tally to tell him about. When I swung off the back of his bike one day, my friend said “Did you see that huge hawk back there on the left?” I had only seen hawks on our right.

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We had both used Dad’s method of marking miles, thoughts tumbling in the company of our own hawks.

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One of the Family He told me he wanted to ride a motorcycle simply to be the guy who does that cool, usually two-fingers-at-your-side greeting that bikers do. But, as he demonstrated his longing, a desire to be part of the family, one of the accepted, he used the wrong hand.

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What If I Forget? What if I forget the smell of your leather jacket what it's like to squeeze your hips with my thighs as the motorcycle goes over a bump? (Can you remember the warmth of my hands on your shoulders? At your waist?) Did I really tug your earlobe or just wish it? What color are your sunglasses? Red. Of course. What if I can't picture that one angled tooth in your grin how you hold your fists to your hips when you’re thinking? What if I don’t get another chance to read your mind 19


push you to spit out what’s bouncing around in your brain? What if I forget what it’s like to be your shadow? What if I can’t remember how safe my name is in your mouth?

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DARA SYRKIN is devoted to blue highways, two-wheeled vehicles, and the power of seeds.

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Occasional Swerve  

life on the open road, poems by Dara Syrkin