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rainy alley w bike

i remember he looked like a paperclip…
hunched over and limited in his usefulness.
and to think that several years ago, he rode a bicycle—
hawthorne zep it was called—1939 model.

i knew the bicycle better than i knew him.
“cleveland welding company.” he always said,
when i asked how things were going.
“cleveland welding company built it, 1939.”

he was only eight when the delivery truck came;
montgomery wards written on the side.
just as he had dreamed…dark blue with white trim,
tires blacker than night and sidewalls brighter than the moon
when it hung lethargically in full cycle.

but now, he could barely rise from his chair.
i wondered if maybe that bicycle hadn’t kept him alive;
memories were reason to hope, even in the past.

it hurt to see his spine so crippled;
his back, an asymmetrical arc leading to nowhere,
bent like an old fiberglass fishing pole
overburdened with a seven pound bass with a will to live.

we had roles.
i spoke…he stared into the past.

“hawthorne zep it was called, 1939 model, white sidewall tires,
side jeweled reflectors, and a chrome-plated chain guard…
she was built by the cleveland welding company, 1939.”
was his answer to any question i asked.

i told him it was okay to tell me all about his bicycle,
so he taught me about life…
and everything i needed to know about the hawthorne zep.

seems he forgot all about 1939—and every year that followed—
but one saturday morning long ago, a bicycle was delivered
and he fell in love like most folks only wish they could.