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Friday, September 7, 2012

Poem of the Week: Out Riding, James Sandham

We go out riding. Down along the lake the city’s towers deconstruct, replaced by mid-day neighbourhoods abandoned to the heat. We pass trellises of vines and bushy climbing roses, turn down cool and grassy paths under trees like shaded carpets, and ride through parks on boardwalks that unfold to empty streets, roads I’ve never seen before yet recognize, half-consciously, as if in some strange and happy humid fever. Memories merge and reemerge like summer waves upon the lake.

We stop and leave the path behind, pull off socks, pick up rocks, and walk the shore while skipping them. Water breaks across our ankles; on our skin bloom sun-coaxed freckles. We imagine that upon this beach, beneath our feet, a thousand ancient empires lay, reduced to dust by history, now pushed about by gentle waves – eternity’s calm caress.

The whisper of the lake-borne wind; sweat that’s cooled on sun-kissed skin; the sand in our shoes as once again bikes are mounted, and quiet tires gently spin. Our forearms tanned, and bike chains whirring, with beaded sweat upon our lips – we follow each other's pumping legs, and take turns being leader. We move along our path as one; together we grow stronger.

Somewhere else the highway drones – machinery of a far-off system. Full of hubris and self-importance, it’s likely best forgotten. The distant moan of weary souls, of Sisyphus set at his task, hums back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth again. These avaricious glory-seekers, moving fast enough to kill, daily drag their corpses home – and then, in savage arms of mother night, are first destroyed, and born again; first destroyed, and born again; first destroyed, and born again…

These cycles we can’t escape. Meanwhile my prayer wheel spins. And I, too, am beholden. The paradox that cinches it is finding freedom through this slavery: submitting – but not submissive – are we subsumed by the cycle. The self becomes nothing; the ego becomes nothing; all dissolves, go round and round – and we remount out bikes. The whirring chains that free us sing our sacred humming mantra.

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