My Wobbly Bicycle, 172

Posted by on May 22, 2019 | 4 comments

The day our little paradise on the Elk River in Maryland was ruined, I sat on our deck, turned my face to the wall and cried. The strip of land behind us, the viney, drapey, wooded path to the Elk River that we thought of as our own, was obliterated by buyers of the house behind and to the right of us. Soon there were ATVs roaring just beyond our back yard.


Which reminds me of what’s just happened locally behind the airport. First Costco ripped out a forest of trees, home to countless creatures, then the airport took almost all the rest. What’s going, what’s gone. It’s hard to write anything but elegy lately.


How about if I write elegies for poems that didn’t ever make it into a book, or even into print? Well, not elegies, but the poems themselves. Well, maybe not the poems as they were but how they are after I fiddle with them some more. I have more poetic sense than I once did, I hope. Let this be my probably insignificant contribution toward improving the landscape.


The Path


Our boundary-path’s filled up with fallen

leaves, barely an indentation,


with butterflies. We’ve been breaking through

spider webs, ducking limbs, not letting


our thoughts end at the property line,

where on Tuesday a loaded gravel truck


clanks, nothing to soften it, everything

ruined. Still, we watch out the glass doors,


fascinated by the clear white strip,

the aforementioned Italian opera of a clanking


truck. We are tilted, overturned,

slammed down on the line. This is all we get,


then. We think how to be, how to play

disaster a little elegantly, Tosca


and Cavaradossi, lives circumscribed by our own

personal crash of fate, not the old scrim


of insects and squirrels, but the ravenous swath,

the chain-saw massacre that leaves us nose-


to-nose, artfully posed, wet cheeked.



However, if you want cheering up, you should check out the poems of Ross Gay. His Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, is stunning and, well, cheerful. In a good way, meaning honest and filled with shadow as well. And then he has gone and done it again in essays, a collection that just came out called The Book of Delights. He revels in things, odd things, people things, creature things.

Joy and sorrow, all mixed up. You can’t pull apart the strands (as if there were strands) and hold just one.





  1. Oh Fleda, unbelievable. I have felt such sadness, myself, when seeing a former favorite haunt of the natural world defiled in such a way. As with any deep personal loss, no words can really give comfort. I just wish you peace and strength while assimilating this unwanted reality. Thank you for such personal sharing.

  2. It is always personal, isn’t it? Personal for the creatures, personal for us.

  3. I have a comment not related to this but to your poetry column in The Record Eagle. I always enjoy reading your insightful appreciations of poems. Parts of “Swifts” remind me of Hopkins’ poetry with their alliteration and, I think, sprung rhythm. “Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther” makes me think of “The Windhover.” Also, the particular imagery of this line suggests that Anne Stevenson is familiar with these lines from “Haymaking” by Edward Thomas:

    “While over them shrill shrieked in his fierce glee
    The swift with wings and tail as sharp and narrow
    As if the bow had flown off with the arrow.”

    • I hadn’t thought of Edward Thomas, but yes, of course. And there is a suggestion of Hopkins’ sprung rhythm, however disguised. Thanks so much for writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *