John Crick

In life, it was a bulled-smart Hercules;
but snapped at ease on its side against next-door's
beech's roots, it cuts angles and curves
like a legless wedding-day uncle.

And the straight man to this comic, my father -
thirtyish, type of the colonial
baddie in Biggles - is smiling, Brylcreem'd,
lean in crimped khaki. The rest is shadow.

But this past is still touchable. Nothing clouds
my picture of one end-of-Whitsun day
when locked on a Wye Valley tour's spaces,
my father gushed to a gabby seven-years-old,

and the Hercules came into its name.
The way he told it, it was a swerver,
a darting downhill rattler, a brawler
against headwinds. That high week, man and bike

were born again freewheelers. I watched
a finger nicotined dark as teak
trampoline above a map, stroke each day's route,
stab places he'd talked evenings away

with Border widow landladies. Their deep-flock
mattresses and Beano suppers grew
large with Homeric telling. Symonds Yat
Tintern, Chepstow, Ross……names floated by me

like balloons out of reach. But later,
I knew it for a last fling before Hitler's
long winter. Upended in our backyard,
an orange-mottled flaky frame for thistles,

the bike snagged my mother's sheets for years.


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