Guest Observation: ‘A Provisional Perfect Freedom’

Bicycles in another context:

“The Cycle of Their Lives”

Eamon Grennan

(From “What Light There Is & Other Poems“; Copyright 1989, by Eamon Grennan)

“All day, now that summer’s come, the children

Drift by my window on their bicycles. Hour

After aimless hour a small bright school of them

Circles the block, nonchalant as exotic fish

That barely ruffle the avocado depths

Of a home aquarium. For the most part

Their pace is regular–pedalling the rise,

Cresting the turn, then floating dreamy-eyed

Back down. Without warning one will break

The circle, flash off on his own, on her own,

The way they’ll leave at last the homes

They’ll home to. If they see me staring

Out at them from behind this glass

They wave in passing–one hand jerky in air,

Eyes colliding with mine an instant–then

Steadying a slight wobble they resume their

Instinct’s occupation, drawing order from

The tangle of their lives. Morning to night

They’re at it, while the gold-spoked sun

Rides the blue rim of sky, and light sifts

Through the hushed underwater web

Of leaves, altering the air they swim in–

Silvergreen, oriole, buttercup, verdigris–yellow.

Come mealtimes, their dreaming spell

Is snapped by the cries of mothers; names

Ring around the neighborhood like bells, bringing

Each one headlong home. Indoors, they fret over

Vegetables, their propped bikes glittering

Against the steps and porches, the road

A pool of light and silence, the spangled

Green crosshatch of leaves hangs still. Soon

They are back in their kingdom, lord

Of all its lit dimensions, circling perpetually

The square. Given our condition, they fashion

A provisional perfect freedom, beautifully doing

Nothing, unravelling and ravelling themselves

In time, being only motion alone, savouring

The sweet empty presence of themselves

In sunlight. My own son is among them

Until grey traces of air and muffled light

Cling to his white t-shirt and he glows

Almost chromium or wild white rose. When I

Call him in at last, he glimmers away for one

More turn in watery dusklight, then freewheels

Slowly toward the garage dark, dismounts, lays

His bike aside. Grounded, he trudges through

Ankle-deep grass, talking in low tone

To his friends, who know their own time is

Almost come and cycle on, flickering

The way I’ve seen seagulls flicker, who call out

To one another as they wheel round the infinite

High reaches off the evening sky.”

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