POETRY by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Two Bike Poems
by Laura Madeline Wiseman


Your first bike was made for speed, one set of black wheels, one dark frame, one body flashing,
one silver streak of Lexa—whoever she is, is eleven-speed and fast. Once, you met her twin, tawny
and white, exclaiming the claim of the half-drunk, endorphined-cyclist, only the owner was
similarly minded. She talked custom fit, cost, and years biked on the road. The first time you bike
twenty-five miles into a headwind, you pass tall prairie, historic stone school, one SAG, and
stopped to refuel among all that grass. This is when you learn our secret. You hear us talking in
your head. Our language is mechanical, our edges hard, yet your grip eases, your chest expands to
pull in more breath. The story you had told yourself about your life somewhere shifted or maybe
you’d been telling the wrong story the whole time. You whisper words that catch the wind and are
passed back to the hundreds of us behind you. You say, Tell me your story and then, I’ll tell you


When we find the crop circles, you say, Someone’s following us. I think, no kidding. We were on
our bikes by six, leaving all those quiet tents, all those somnolent bodies. You say, Someone made
I imagine a squadron pressing down cornstalks, holding hands in moonlight. Maybe it’s
I say, like some weird electromagnetic field, a GMO gone wrong, a bunch of cows facing
north and farting. You say, I bet some local farmers thought they could scare us cyclists, rather
than turn a buck by selling sports drinks and beer.
I laugh, you laugh, then we fall down in the
crop circles laughing to watch the big Midwestern sky. As we arrive in the overnight town, cheered
by inhabitants, I think about that little girl with curls from yesterday, green beads she held out for
riders to catch, turning her head and closing her eyes as they approached, as if she feared collision,
body snatchers, being taken on as a host. Like our neighbor girl at two, at five, at seven, big-eyed,
dark-haired, and small, who cringes as if she expects someone to knock her over, leave her
sprawling in the ditch, yelling all the unkind words, the glitter of beads still there in her palm, still offering,
still hoping for good.

Laura Madeline Wiseman’s recent books are An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), and Leaves of Absence (Red Dashboard). She teaches in Nebraska. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Sally Brown Deskins, is an Honor Book for the 2015 Nebraska Book Award. Her essay on long distance cycling "Seven Cities of Good" is an honorable mention for the Pacific Literary Review's 2015 Creative Nonfiction Award.