Copyright © 2017 by Jane Schapiro
We stopped, laughed, leaned
our bikes against the sign.
What a confluence—city, sign, the two of us—
one layer aligned with another
like those transparencies in The World Book:
each sheet a view of the human body.
I used to love turning the pages,
placing the nervous system over the muscular,
the muscular over the circulatory,
veins in sync with tendons,
tendons with nerves. In front of the sign
we posed: photograph, genes, memory.
Even now as I write sisters, I feel coalescence
surging like a jolt of faith.
By chance we learned
if one of us rode in the other’s wake
we could outwit the wind.
Along canyon rims, we traded leads—
I’d pedal ahead, lean in, count the minutes
when I could drop. In the eddy,
I’d close the gap, inch by inch,
edge up from behind, until I entered
that glorious calm.
could topple us.
A slit separated her tire from mine,
a margin so thin one careless brush
We were so happy in that motel room,
Our naïveté sank inside that eye.
Kuma fresh from a shower,
Ellen and I knitting, the TV on.
It wasn’t until the voice shook the pane,
barreled through like a spiraling wind,
that we opened the door.
“Get your ass out!”
What? Who? Why?
“Five minutes or I’ll call the police!”
Is this the same man
who had welcomed us both, smiled
and joked as he gave us the key?
He’s pointing at Kuma,
waving his fist
(but we told him we were expecting a third).
His glass eye is bulging.
Kuma’s packing his bags,
we are shaking
“Dumb ass gook!”
it all comes clear—
the heat, the energy,
what is driving this storm.
With no shoulder to ride on we walked
our bikes across Vicksburg Bridge.
As trucks blasted past us hauling their freights,
we clung to the right of the solid white line.
Whatever you do, I reminded myself,
stay focused on the solid white line.
Steadily, we made our way like needles
stitching a fabric’s seam. Eventually
I couldn’t resist, couldn’t stem the urge
to turn my head, glance over steel trusses
at the river below. Memory swelled, its muddy swirl
dragging my mind: every St. Louis summer
I’d hear of someone who went for a swim,
ignored warnings, dove right in,
(glancing, I felt a passing rig),
the body later washing on shore.
That’s the danger of undertow,
also the thrill.
The sign read
Tattoos and Guns
so why did we
drop our bikes
ring the bell
what made us
rifles and ink
let a man with a braid
and a bicep of skulls
pierce our skin
why did we trade
our parents’ trust
for a daisy
(left hip for me right for you)
what were we thinking
as blood bubbled up
as we dabbed
rode off abreast.