Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Democracy of Bicycles

I wouldn't ever consider myself a political poet. I wouldn't want to be. It's partially what I adore about poetry-- a land that exists as words shyly hugging the left side (no pun here to politics, well, maybe a little) of the page. Sure, there are great political poems, Easter 1916 by Yeats to name a well known example, but I'd like to think it has "stayed alive" in the political poetry archives due to it's sound as sense instead of just sloganed language with political intent. Sometimes shouting is just noise and not words you want to carry in your head or heart.

I used to be much more politically driven, now, I'd rather work on my garden. I'd like to think that the quiet movement of making a tiny plot and home in this world more green is a political stance. My stance is my body bent over pulling weeds and planting arugula, nasturtiums and basil. As if my flag is nothing but the leaves on my sage bush that outlasted a gray Missoula winter. My country is filled with people who consider themselves hardy perennials in a world that wants plastics and perfection. We the hardy, we the greened are imperfect in our becoming. Because that's what nature gives you, it gives you metaphors of becoming. The pear tree outside your window now in bloom will be fruit, the blue birds building a nest will bring flight and the trilliums on the forest floor are now spring's perfect white to summer's green. All become something.

But now I am getting too metaphysical, so let's turn to the poetry of Robert Frost instead. "Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold." The gold of spring forsythia cannot stay gold but will be the green of summer shade. Maybe even our political shouts of our youth will be our quiet acts of gardening as adults. Maybe most character traits you develop as a young adult, seem to just shift to some other place as you age. So my once political nature to save anything that looked cute and mammalian, has turned into a different focus. Now, I am pro-bike and I pedal.

Really, there are few things in this world that move me like libraries, post offices and public transportation. It's as if regardless of any ism a country holds at least they can all agree on these three. I cannot say our country has a grand example of public transportation systems, yet in our small town of Missoula we do have Bike, Walk, Bus Week. This week, thanks to the good people at The Way to Go Club or http://missoulainmotion.com/ we are a city that cycles, commutes and carpools, or tries to all year long.

Even as I sit here at my desk watching the cool rains of late April, I will ride my bike. I will join the democracy of bicycles and quietly pedal to work. Really, I don't do it for any political purpose as much as I do it to have some quiet before the business and noise. It gives me twenty minutes to breath and pedal to a rhythm to remind myself I am not in a box, that I am becoming something too. Viva La Bicycle!

Enjoy the poem.

To Begin

I wear my seatbelt when I like myself,

my hands at ten and two like the cuckoo

clock in my kitchen which I won’t let coo

or chime since the elf hen inside started

saying shoes. I wanted to shelve it away

with the pencils or ship it to Caracas,

but clocks are endangered there.

I leave my house before the sun finds

the alarm, ride my bike to work and flirt

with cars to nudge me into curbs, alleys or dirt,

so I can start my day face first to the morning

light and ignore people moving in boxes

of metal. I turn up the wren housed in my heart

who warbles from its perch on my desk

and sings with each tick of my pencil.