My Wobbly Bicycle, 134

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 | 8 comments

I went to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for my fortieth high school reunion thinking surely, after all these years, a lot of poems would come to me. But I only got a few. You never know. They’re all in Reunion. I could give you one of those here, but I picked a different one from that book because I thought it might give momentary comfort in these frightening times.


imgres-1What I’m looking for in a poem has shifted these days. Every poem is political—I could talk about that at length!—but some carry with them an awareness of particular ways of seeing that help us, or at least help us recognize a companion spirit at a particular time. In this case, a mouse.






I admire the way mouse dashes across the top bracket

of the blinds while we’re reading in bed. I admire the tiny whip


of its tail at the exact second my husband tries to grab it.

I admire the way it disappears into our house and shreds various


elements. I admire the way it selects the secret corridors

behind cupboards and drawers, the way it remains on the reverse


side of our lives. The mouse is what I think of when I think of

a poem, or of music, going straight for the goods, around


the barrier of our thoughts. It leaves droppings, pretending to be

not entirely substantial, falling apart a little here and there.


Clearly, it has evolved perfect attention to detail. I wish it would

concentrate on the morning news, pass the dreadfulness out


in little pellets. Yesterday I found a nest of toilet paper and

thought I’d like to climb onto that frayed little cloud. I would like


to become the disciple of that mouse and sing “Wooly Bully”

in a tiny little voice in the middle of the night while the dangerous


political machines are all asleep. I would like to have a tail

for an antenna. But, I thought, also, how it must be to live alone


among the canyons of cabinets, to pay that price, to look foolish

and trembling in daylight. Who would willingly choose to be


the small persistent difficulty? So I put out a spoonful of peanut butter

for the mouse, and the morning felt more decent, the government


more fair. I put on my jeans and black shirt, trying not to make

mistakes yet, because it seemed like a miracle that anyone tries at all.

I looked hard for a photo of a trillium with blood-red markings, because there was one in a poem in the collection. I found one on line and wrote to the photographer, Susan Farmer, to ask permission to use it. I sent her $100, but I think she would have given it to me free. She seemed pretty happy to have it as a book cover. I thought it was perfect.

I’ve been using these posts to go back through the collections included in The Woods Are On Fire: New & Selected Poems, before the book launch next week, Thursday, March 16, from 5-7 at The Corner Loft in Traverse City.    I hope you’ll come, if you’re within range. I’ll read, Becky Somsel will play the harp (not at the same time!), and we’ll have refreshments. I’m looking forward to a great party!


  1. That poem! Holy, holy, holy.

    (Everything is holy, said Ginsberg, and here we have a humble, dissident mouse with many noble qualities, which are made more apparent by the poem.)

    Praise you. This Mouse made my morning (as did a handful of poems by Lucille Clifton).

    Happy International Women’s Day, Fleda.

    • Same to you, dear Holly. I’m glad to have helped with your morning in some small way, on this Women’s Day.

  2. I love that poem, Fleda.
    “Who would willingly choose to be / the small persistent difficulty?” What a great moment. Hope life is treating you well.

    • Thanks, Chris. I’m fine. I am working to be the small persistent difficulty.

  3. Ah, the mouse is, indeed, noble for it takes only what it needs and no more. So foreign is this notion that we are sure the mouse is our enemy; a thing we must destroy because we only knows who we are by what others are not. i

    • Yes, exactly. Sigh.

  4. Good Morning Fleda –

    Strange coincidences have surprised me while reading your work. Perhaps my time in Newark, age 6-12, are the main cause.

    Last night, I read you walked in White Clay Creek Park breaking in hiking shoes. My book, “My Journey Begins where the Road Ends” comes out in Late June – I have a story entitled “White Clay Creek” included.

    • It is a small world. Thanks for writing. Good to know the essays are being read!

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