A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
Naomi Shihab Nye, "The Rider" from Fuel. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye. BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
"Simplicity and grace"
“When I read "The Rider,” says Geoffrey, "I think of a line from another great bicycle poem, by Michael Donaghy: "The machinery of grace is always simple." The machinery of this poem is indeed wonderfully simple: a brief, plain-spoken anecdote about the efforts of two people to leave their (lightly personified) loneliness behind, followed by a final, resonant image in which loneliness dissolves in something we might call grace.
"Never a word — and this is part of the poem’s simplicity and its grace — about what made the poet pedal so hard down San Antonio’s King William Street at night in the first place. On a personal note, as both a cyclist whose mental health improves with riding and a translator, I'm inordinately fond of the moment when the poet wonders, essentially, whether deliverance "translates to bicycles.”
You can read more about Naomi Shihab Nye – and buy collections including Fuel – on the BOA Editions Ltd website.
To get involved with the University’s wide-ranging programme of talks and activities marking Mental Health Awareness Week, visit their dedicated webpage.