the white bicycle part II

5 05 2012

POETRY DISPATCH No. 371 | May 5, 2012


The Best Prose Piece plus Selections from the Second Wave of Poems

EDITOR’S NOTE: I neglected to include the best “White Bicycle” prose piece in Friday’s posting which featured the three poems which best captured the image.

Part II leads off with the story by Jean Casey, followed by an at random selection of good poems which fell into a category the other judge and I saw as ‘the second wave.’ None of these selections are in any kind of order, they’re just good poems—which didn’t quite make the final three for reasons I previously mentioned. (And there are more, which I may or may not get around to featuring sometime.)

I would add one thing to the poetry finalists who were chosen and the prose writer. The other judge is an excellent reader, writer, editor who resides some distance from Wisconsin and would not have known any of the writers had I included their names—which I did not. I certainly expected there would be some disagreement over our choices, and we would have to work this out.

Once the noon deadline was reached, I made my final choices, in no particular order, just three poems and the one story I liked best, then awaited an e-mail from the other judge. There were no phone calls, no e-mail discussion between us. When the e-mail from the other judge arrived later in the day, I was beyond astounded to discover we both picked the exact same works! This almost never happens. —Norbert Bleib

The White Bicycle

Jean Casey

He had never won anything before, not a single thing, and now he had this amazing jackknife with all sorts of important attachments which made an important and heavy weight in his pocket. And all because of the Old Ellison Days parade. Oh, he knew it wasn’t a grand thing, but it was a yearly event with fire engines, some folks on horseback, an honor guard of veterans, a few simple floats, and a bunch of kids on decorated bikes and some politicians in shiny cars. This year they announced prizes to include the bikes. He didn’t give it much thought, because he was never a part of anything like that. Fat and slow with a hampering stammer, he hung around the edges of life. His 6th grade teacher tried, because she knew he was bright inside, but he avoided her help.

But this year, before the parade, he felt an urge to enter, especially knowing about the grand prize for bikes, that knife! It came to him one moonlit night when he lay in his bed before sleep that he could avoid somehow being seen as his lumpy self if he…yes! If he went covered up…yes, indeed! As a ghost! Everything must be white! His old bike was a dark maroon, rusty, tired. But, if he painted it…!

No way could he get by with this unless he consulted his mother. In the morning he found her with her mouth filled with clothes pins hanging a wash on the outside lines. She listened, fastening some socks with the stored pins. “The only white we got around here is flat wall paint left over from the living room, but you can use it, and you’ll need an old sheet to wear. I have one. We’ll have to cut eye holes in it, but that’s okay. I’ve got a chain link belt, come to think of it, that ought to help you cinch it in.”

He said, excited, “I think I’ll ask dad for his old straw hat! If he let me, I could paint it white too! I think a ghost should have a hat!” He didn’t stammer, she noticed.

Parade day, he said not a word to anyone, played his part, accepted his prize from the puzzled judge who asked for and didn’t get his name, because this ghost never talked. And now, the bike was propped up in back of the barn, and he would redo it bright red. His dad gave him money for the paint. The prize would stay in his pocket, unless he was at home whittling.

…remember the rides
all the bikes in my life
now white as ghost shadows.

Bonnie Hartmann


by Sharon Auberle

when everything is falling apart
my friend, when you’re stuck
in the horse latitudes
mired in a dark
night of the soul
when you’re no longer sleek
sexy and smooth

find the white bicycle
climb on that
fat-tired slow beast
pedal and huff and
laugh like you mean it
whistle sing shout
and cuss use words
your mama told you never to

push that bike up a mountain
when you get to the top
when you’re near
to over the hill
when night is falling fast
jump on whoop and holler

ride that old bicycle down
no brakes allowed
fireflies and stars
your only light
and when you wipe out
(and yes, honey, you will)
darkness like a big pillowy woman
will come along and wrap you up
whisper everything’s gonna be allright…

no worries, baby,
she’ll carry all
your broken pieces home…


by Chris Halla

Parked here by an old man
shaped like a question mark

Hoping a young girl in a yellow dress
would eventually steal

his white bicycle away
on a green, spring afternoon

The White Bicycle

by Alice D’Alessio

I dreamt I saw it standing all alone
beside the blue barn wall.
Ghost, what are you doing here?
I asked, recognizing every
feature – the torn seat, the gash
in the front tire from the time
we hit the tree; the dented fenders,
handlebars minus their grips
minus the bell that Mickey Loman stole;
and best of all, the fancy chain guard –
to keep my pants from catching on the chain
and getting greasy. My first bike,
bright and shiny blue it was
and trimmed in red.
It meant the war was over.

The shadowy background
made the bike seem luminous.
You’re lookin’ pretty good, I said,
for an old guy. And then I thought
I heard it whisper, You too.
Let’s go race down Kaiser Hill,
shall we? There’s still time.

The White Bicycle

By Don Fraker

Nearly an albino,
But for her leathery dark barnacle of a seat,
Tattered, betraying her age —
Paint no cure for that condition.

Mobya was my vessel,
Her now-departed basket ferrying books
From their orderly, patient moorings at the library
To the needy harbor of their offloading.

Got her in junior high,
Whitened her in unspoken tribute to the first teacher who credited me with adult capacities,
His brine-soaked incantations of albatross, and mutiny, and whale,
Setting me a-sail on new-seen old adventures.

Though now my daughter’s ark,
No more the carrier of tomes
Of late evanesced, ether-borne,
Her bleached carapace transports me still.


by Ralph Murre

the way she rode it
as much on clouds
as on concrete

as much from as toward
on a pavement of dream

the way I saw or didn’t see
the way it didn’t seem
she any longer needed me
to run along beside

the way the ride then
circled back in setting sun

the thing about a cycle
is the way it’ll repeat

her white bike may come back
may lean up
again against my shack

who knows when a cycle
or circle is complete?


by Paula Kosin

Even though it is not Easter
My mother hauled her old bike,
Tired, rusty but full
Of fond memories,
Out of the depths of the garage
And in the cool shade
Painted it white
The color of the Risen Lord
Of new life
And alleluias
And once she started
She just spray painted the whole damn
Tires, spokes, chain, pedals, handlebars
Every nook and cranny
Figuring that if a little paint made it look better
Then a lot would make it look wonderful
And the dirt and scratches and rust disappeared
Before our eyes
Like a miracle
And now it stands outside
Starkly propped against the blue sky garage
Drying and poised perhaps
For her ascension into Heaven

sharon auberle | saturday nights at the crystal ball

12 02 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 270 | February 11, 2009

Sharon Auberle: Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball
(An Overview, Interview, Book Review)
by Norbert Blei

Sharon AuberleSaturday Nights at the Crystal Ball
by Sharon Auberle
Cross+ Roads Press #31
PO Box 33
Ellison Bay, WI 54210
$12 plus $2 S&H

Of the thirty-one books published by Cross+Roads Press to date, half of them were written by women. Not that I’m counting, not that political correctness or anything else matters when it comes to choosing a book I like, introducing a writer I feel deserves greater exposure. I’m aware that more women are interested in literary work than men. And it’s no surprise that writing workshops students are predominantly women.

When I look at the list of women I have thus far published, consider their books of poetry and stories, certain common themes emerge: family, relationships, the search for selfhood. Not that the men do not exhibit an interest in these same themes, but that their approach is often different in style and perspective. Sometimes, radically so.

It’s my contention, however, that if only men would pay more attention to any of the women I have published by Cross+Roads Press, they would learn so much more about themselves…about family…about relationships …about the art of writing…perhaps even gain a little more knowledge toward that age-old question: “What does a woman want?”

Sharon Auberle doesn’t have all the answers in SATURDAY NIGHTS AT THE CRYSTAL BALL, but she asks many of the right questions and leaves the reader with plenty of insights to carry around for a long time.

Just prior to publication, I asked her to explain a little about the book:

this is a book full of ghosts…once, during the deathwatch, my mother looked up at me (she was perfectly lucid) and said who is that woman behind you? there was no one, and I said so, but she insisted, oh yes, she has her hand on your shoulder… the death of a parent is enormous

“We are all victims of our childhood”… I read somewhere

as I sat by my mother’s bed those two weeks while she was dying I knew the thing I’d feared most as a child, her leaving me as my father had done, was happening and I became that child again…

a child who, nevertheless, could sit at her bedside in a darkened room and scribble in my black journal… didn’t know why I was doing it, never thought it would become a book…just knew I had to it started as my mother’s story…but my father needed to be in it too, though I didn’t know him…how can I write about him?

I did…and began to feel as if I had known him. certainly better than I ever had…felt compassion for him…would not go so far as love, but, more importantly, forgiveness the realization that in my own life, in a different, yet same way, I’d done the same as he…

…the more I wrote of their failed love and marriage, the more I understood it, though much, of course, was imaginary…who can ever know another person’s heart?


At the age of eighty
my mother confesses
riding with me through the town
where a man she knew once lived:
/ should have married Luke
he sent me roses every week
and wrote in the most lovely hand…

The road tilts for a moment
in the copper autumn light.
I could let the words pass
pretend I’m intent on driving
forget there was once another
man meant to be my father.
Not that tall man
who kept love he couldn’t give
because of the man with a fine hand
who sent roses every week.

I could forget her words
and just go on loving
white roses and autumn
my mother, my dead father, unaware
of this sunlight kindling October maples
and old, unforgotten desires.


I decided to continue the dialogue with Sharon now that the book has been published and so well received. What follows is an extended conversation about one writer, one particular book, all that transpires once the work is set free.

Now that the book is out, I feel strangely removed from it–almost as though someone else wrote it–that surprises me. That, and my children’s reaction, which, though my daughter said it made her cry–was mainly discomfort: ‘ tmi,’ they both said: “too much information”

Some writers, both published and unpublished, choose to hold back when their work either borders on or delves too much into the personal. Did she experience any of this?

It may be that, because there was a good bit of distance between the time I wrote most of these poems, (at least the very painful ones), and the time of publication, I was able to stand back, distance myself from the pain. And I could never have put this book out there while my mother was alive. She was a private person and would have been appalled. Even now, I wonder if it was the right thing to do. Yet, I feel its important for people to stand back and look at their own parents, apart from the parent/child connection and see them as vulnerable human beings with love stories, heartbreaks and circumstances that shaped their lives. Time does give some objectivity and discretion.

I’ve been very surprised at the male reaction to this book. I thought women might relate to it with understanding, connect to it in a more personal way than men. But, in fact, from the feedback I’ve received from men (admittedly a small number), there has been strong and positive reaction, including tears, from a close personal male friend–someone from whom I would never have expected such. And it touched me deeply.


Someone said the best thing
my parents did together was dance.
When the two were out together
people would stop and watch
the tall man and the laughing girl
who never missed a step
but then their music ended
and my father left
to marry a woman
who looked up at him
in a pleading way
and though she didn’t dance
he could not stop
and this may be the softest thing
I know about my father:
they say he kept on dancing
to those old seventy-eights
on moody nights at home
alone and lonely, circling
endlessly in the smoky dark.


The book began with memories, dreams, and unresolved questions about my parents. There was a time when I felt a very great need to know that my parents had actually loved each other once. And then I had the actual dream described in “Love Song.” That and “Confession”, the first poem were the key poems to the story. I then began collecting little snippets of actual facts I knew about them from before I was born, enlarging those, and certainly imagining some. I foraged through all the old poems I’d written over the years, old journals, etc., to see what might fit. Those writings fueled new poems, and though this sounds implausible, I actually felt that there were times there was “guidance” in my writing,, particularly about my father, whom I barely knew. The physical laying out of all the poems, old and new, alongside old photos brought it all together.

Other than the previous poems that, ultimately, went into this book, much of my poetry was less painful to write–though about love and relationships, I was NOT writing about these deepest, oldest parts of me.

Do you see another book pattern emerging? Has the poetry changed? Is there something you would like to do with the poem that you, for whatever reason, have not yet been able to do? And are you working with that?

Every year I start a new notebook of poetry on Jan. 1. At the end of that year, I have a variety of poems, and it’s interesting to see what, if any, patterns emerge. That’s where I am now, considering. But, upon seeing how SATURDAY NIGHTS AT THE CRYSTAL BALL has touched readers in its universality, I’m definitely striving to do better with that in all my work. I was aware of the importance of that, of course, but the deep response to this book really opened my eyes to the beauty of it. I think that’s the main change in my writing. Last year’s collection of work shows that a new chapbook, should I choose to do it, could be about some very difficult things to write about in the relationship area. I’m still wondering why and if I should consider putting that out there. But then, why do any of us write, if not to be read? To share where we’ve been, what it was like, and how we got back, (if we did). I don’t know the answer, but the words seem to be leading me back out there.


My mother does not revel
in excess pleasure.
She sleeps in a narrow bed.
Her food is sparse
she drinks no wine.
At eighty-two
her body is honed
of every excess inch or process
yet I am surprised by sudden joy
rippling beneath my hands
over the tender bow of neck
down the white-lathered curve of spine
into that naked place
where pleasures live
and swans sing
their final song.


Take the reader through this poem…washing your mother’s back…

I think it happens to many of us—that the child becomes the parent, and that is heartbreaking. We don’t want to be the parent, we still need our parents. The poem first came to me, as I was helping my mother to bathe. She was very weak, recovering from a heart attack, and all defenses were gone. She sat in the tub, and her tender back was bowed, her head bent, as I lathered the white soapsuds over her. The image of a swan came vividly to mind, which is, of course, in the last two lines, not the first.

I certainly wasn’t thinking of a poem at that moment, but the image stayed with me. I don’t remember how much time passed before the poem was actually written. My mother recovered, and was back to her sturdy, no-nonsense self, but I could not forget her vulnerability in that time and the contrast between those two selves. Very few of us want to think about, let alone write about, the sexual side of our parents, yet I think I wanted to explore this idea—that there is this place in all of us, no matter how old, where memory and sensuality still reside. I wanted to show the beauty of that, for my own approaching years, as well. Since it was my mother I was writing about, I still needed to maintain that distance and respect. So the swan image seemed right–pure and beautiful–yet also sexual.

In writing this poem, using this image that still lingered in some corner of my mind, I came to understand that it was honoring that place in my mother/child, that this place exists in all of us, and it seemed that no further words were needed.

Review: Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball
by Ralph Murre

Sharon AuberleThere’s a new book on the shelf that I reserve for the fine work of my friends over at Cross + Roads Press. Not that I expect Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball to spend much time on the shelf. Far too much good material to set it aside for long.

Poet Sharon Auberle, on the surface, tells the story of her mother’s last days on this earth; that of a woman who danced her way through an uneasy life. Anyone who’s ever lost a parent, or ever will, can benefit from the reading. Just beneath the surface, the writer finds other tales about to finally break into daylight: the story of a father who left early, in a time when that was the exception; the subsequent effects on the lives and loves of the author and her mother; the perhaps too quickly passed judgments all around; all told in the voice of an accomplished artist of the written word, and through it all, there is the dance. In “Spring Came Late That Year”, we read:

Maggie danced
the night Edward left
her baby girl
about the kitchen
their mingled tears
spinning out
bouncing off windows
like the freezing rain
falling that night

and later, in Legacy:

What my mother left me
was not dancing shoes
or diamond rings
or bad luck with men

it was the way she stood
so straight
barely reaching my shoulder
but tall
on days when life
bends most people low

and that quickstep of hers
forward always
to music only she could imagine

Sharon Auberle is storyteller enough to find and relate what is unique in her life. She is poet enough to show us what is universal. She has deftly tackled subject matter that in lesser hands could have been maudlin, even trite — but has triumphed in a way that elevates us. Her luck in collaborating with editor/publisher Norbert Blei assured an elegant book to stand beside the thirty others from his press. Blei’s decision to reproduce pages from the author’s journal, written in the days immediately preceding her mother’s demise, was a brilliant one, giving us a very palpable connection to the writer in a time of vulnerability juxtaposed with great strength.

Much more on Sharon Auberle can be found on her website. Just click on Mimi’s Golightly Cafe

something to crow about

4 12 2007


Poetry Dispatch No.171 | June 13, 2007

Something to Crow about

Crow Ink by Sharon Auberle

Crows know.
They take their black,
raucous selves,
fire up that attitude
and never look back
at their abandoned nest
high in the pines

I wonder, sometimes,
if our lives might be no more
than the art of crows
written, for awhile
on the sky
then, in an instant,
erased by the wind…

from CROW INK, 2007


Crowlady Karma by Maggie Perry

If I follow down your sad, brown eyes
will I find a field of wild horses
or moon spirits flying wings in the wind?
All the ghosts of your past lovers
run fingers through my hair,
tell me to forget the burned scent of you.

Losing myself in the low flight of crows,
green-eyed bandits give birth.
What about the lives of other birds?
How do they eat? Sleep? Love?
I circle black against yellow sky.

All beggars of light,
your laughing scarecrow ladies
can hang their silk legs out to dry.
Tonight snow and nothing moves
in that secret ice-lace dream.

I spin fine nets of your hair,
hang red flowers as amulets
from dying apple trees.
I will find you.

from CROWLADY LETTERS, Spoon River Poetry Press, 1984

Crow’s Theology by Ted Hughes

Crow realized God loved him—
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow—
Just existing was His revelation.

But what
Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods—

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

from CROW, Harper & Row, 1971

strichstrich.jpgCrow Goes to Margaritavill by Chris Halla

I count on wax wings and gross beaks
to let me know
when the drinking seasons have begun
When the cherries have over-ripened
then the plums
And in rare, perfect years
strawberries, raspberries

But today
some generous stranger
has left two fingers of Cuervo
on her Saturday patio
and I am sipping my Sunday sermon

Satisfied that God is in his church
and all’s right enough with the world

from CROW, CR+Press, Broadside Beat #6, 2007


Crow Whisperer by Ralph Murre

Moist air, red with sun and lying
heavy as August on the fields,
seems too thick for crows to fly
to homes on the edge of woods,
their day’s work done.
Too warm, even, for their raspy complaints.
They watch, as jets pull open the zippers
that hide the sky’s secrets and
they mourn the loss of the birds’ empire.

Wright Brothers and Plymouth Rock Pilgrims
taking what they cannot return and we,
what all the cawing is about.
Flying sacred skies and bulldozing burials and
what all the cawing is about.
Lighting the dark mystery of the night and
what all the cawing is about.

Maybe I’ll listen,
in the morning’s gathering heat,
to the complaints of crows
and the whispers of the robbed.
Maybe I’ll learn to caw.
Maybe I’ll learn to whisper.

from CRUDE RED BOAT, Cross+Roads Press, 2007


man in black coat… caught
high on white birch branch
flapping about…something

Imakitō Oku


on a withered branch
a crow has settled–
autumn nightfall.


sharon auberle | 3 by

4 11 2007


Poetry Dispatch No.138 | December 12, 2006

THREE HAIKU 3 by Sharon Auberle

moonglitter on snow
pinyon smoke scenting the night
breathe me softly love


evening train screams
shattering high crystal air
even the stars shiver


early winter death
this black snap of branch in ice
I curl ’round my heart