Ghost Bike

by Virginia Shank

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               “We all travel the same unsafe streets and face the same risks; it could just as easily be any one of us.” 

                                                                                                                                            --Ghostbikes.org

 

The white wheels loom luminous

 

out of the dark

                        draw the eye up from the crosswalk

 

to the spraypainted frame         the seat set

 

with bunches of lavender                       condolence cards

 

 

Locked to the sign

 

                            supposed to say pedestrians

                                                                                    here

 

though the bike belies this little lie        the story

 

not one about stopping

 

                                          some car careening

 

                                                       toward the freeway      unconscious

 

                                                                       of corners         of yellow whispers 

 

                                                                                                                              watch out

 

 

I can’t help but wonder what color it was

 

                             silver            orange            red? 

 

                                                         The wheels were once black

 

and the seat unseen      some body 

 

                                                         somebody

working there               pedaling hard        trusting perhaps

 

             the voice of the sign                                          The white lines

 

 

Red

 

                                                          Then black

Now this white warning

 

                                         a wraith

                 

                                                      waiting to say to me watch

 

                                                                                                              And maybe I should

 

out wandering sidewalks at 2 a.m.         longing for leaves

 

                                                                                    that sing like the sea

                                                                                    for chorus of crickets

                                                                                    for some sign this place could keep me alive

 

It’s hard to help it         I admit              walking

 

              unwary in the witching hour dark          watching

 

                             only the liverspot sky                            clouded and dim

 

                                                                     trailing like a hound the scent of water

                                                                                   only a sprinkler shaking out some sustenance

 

                                                                                   for the woebegone grass           curbed

                     

                                                                                                  and clipped to a neat suburb slit

 

The trees here stay silent

 

                                            leaves kept close

 

                                                          for the heat                  They have to conserve

 

I understand

             

                             though I stand still

 

                                           beneath their manicured limbs and ache

 

for the windsong           the rainsong                 for life

 

One shouldn’t wander     the ghost bike warns

 

            mustn’t look over the overpass edge

 

                          lean into the fenceless air

 

                                                                      which would open arms

 

                                                                                 to draw you down to the asphalt

 

                                                                                               your blood

 

                                                                                               blinking back the river of taillights

 

 

The only sound the sound of tires

 

              the sound of something that was once alive

 

                            stopping the tide           the torrent of cars

                               

                                                        quiet and finally                        looking

 

                                                           looking at that yellow voice

                                                           

                                                           the nightgrey grass so tenderly tended

                                                           

                                                           the white bike

Riding the Santa Ana River Trail

by Virginia Shank

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I pedal past the palisades

the chainlink fence

and concrete cliffs

under the overpass roads

tireless tirethrum tinnitus

to the culvert curled like a cochlea 

where men wax and wane walking

the bright bones of channels

toward work or the shelter

toward can collecting

the liquor store 

one laundering his collared shirt

with Irish spring in a trickle

 

the sign calls a river 

another sign saying

no camping no storage

of personal property

the property owners

along the perimeter

peering below barbed wire

as they prune back

their orange trees

so no fruit falls

where one of the men

could pick it up

though someone

has lined up eight oranges

along the embankment

and left them

a gift or a sign an invitation

I do not return

but turn instead up

the last leg of trail

where surfers strip slick skins

beneath toweled hips

and then to the road

where plastic surgeons

sandwich McDonalds

and luxury auto dealers

where I must swerve

around the Lexus

pulling in to park

where I am begrudged

my sixteen inch shoulder

and all I can think of

spinning out ten miles

to the place I live

(Will I ever call it a home)

is the hope of olive 

oak and eucalyptus

sagetanged air

and the taste

of citrus

 

sun

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Virginia Shank writes, rides a velomobile, teaches at Irvine Valley College, and edits The Ear in Southern California, then summers in upstate New York. Poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, So It Goes, Rhino, and elsewhere.