On a skidding bike


This is it: front wheel locked,
rear one rolling, 
tail whipping out from behind.
Grip frozen, 
heart pounding—the noise,
the road rash, the 
bleeding and the scaring
all but certain now.

And there she hangs, neither up nor down
but placid, serene even, as the memories
pull pace and flicker by:
nobody believed her, nobody stopped him,
nobody came, nobody does, nobody will.

So, why not? she thinks, looking down.
It’s an embrace of a sort and she’s certain
she’s due, and it means, at least,
landing somewhere and having something to cling to.
Sometimes any kiss is worth the price,
if you don’t have to hold yourself upright
to receive it.

After that, don’t ask me how it went,
I don’t know, I wasn’t there.


Anyone who has ridden a bike in a group setting knows the danger of a sudden fall. For those who have come close (guilty) or actually fallen (ditto), we know that there is a point, just before it happens, when it can go either way. It is a moment of total clarity, where everything freezes and you think, “Will I, or won’t I?” It’s like a full life in a moment.

Thank you for reading On a skidding bike. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken during a day walk in Boston, Massachusetts. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.


Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “On a skidding bike

  1. I have had a few heart-stopping experiences exactly as you described. Once on a bike, once on the back of a motorbike and a couple driving a car. Almost fatal, all of them. But for the grace of God. Well done, John.

  2. A few months ago, the family riding together from somewhere to somewhere, the impetus showed itself for me to recount one of my tales from adolescent years, when I was riding my 10-speed home, in the presence of a rain recently started. Going straight was no problem. When I began my gradual turn left, the slickness of the asphalt from the rain contributed to an epic bicycle crash (just me, and the road). I remembered scars, that lasted a long time on elbows and knees. This poem is wonderful, indescribably wonderful, and for some reason it reminds me of a line from the movie “Finding Forester”, the line written, not spoken, as Jamal read in his writing books Forester’s red inked question: “Where are you taking me?” Respectfully, I ask that question often when I start reading you poetry. Its a good thing, Bro. Peace, T

    • T, you are always kinder than I deserve and God bless you for it!

      There is probably no one, single thing (other than the desire for a better bike that makes you go faster) that unites all cyclists as their road rash horror stories. I have mine and the scars (some of them in *very embarrassing* places) to prove it. To my shame I even once terrorized a little boy in a garage convenience store after he took one look at my shredded leg and thigh. (But I finished that ride!) If it doesn’t kill you, they say…