laura kasischke | bike ride with older boys

21 10 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No.91 | July 17, 2006

Bike Ride with Older Boys by Laura Kasischke

The one I didn’t go on.

I was thirteen,
and they were older.
I’d met them at the public pool. I must

have given them my number. I’m sure

I’d given them my number,
knowing the girl I was…

It was summer. My afternoons
were made of time and vinyl.
My mother worked,
but I had a bike. They wanted

to go for a ride.
Just me and them. I said
okay fine, I’d
meet them at the Stop-n-Go
at four o’clock.
And then I didn’t show.

I have been given a little gift—
something sweet
and inexpensive, something
I never worked or asked or said
thank you for, most
days not aware
of what I have been given, or what I missed—

because it’s that, too, isn’t it?
I never saw those boys again.
I’m not as dumb
as they think I am

but neither am I wise. Perhaps

it is the best
afternoon of my life. Two
cute and older boys
pedaling beside me-respectful, awed. When we

turn down my street, the other girls see me…

Everything as I imagined it would be.

Or, I am in a vacant field. When I
stand up again, there are bits of glass and gravel
ground into my knees.
I will never love myself again.
Who knew then
that someday I would be

thirty-seven, wiping
crumbs off the kitchen table with a sponge, remembering
them, thinking
of this—

those boys still waiting
outside the Stop-n-Go, smoking
cigarettes, growing older.

from Dance and Disappear. © University of Massachusetts Press.

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