Let the wind push us across poems by Jane Schapiro

picture of Jane Schapiro
Author photograph by Scott Brown  

Jane Schapiro’s Let the Wind Push Us Across is in the great tradition of the odyssey as presented by authors from Steinbeck to Kerouac. In their bicycle trek from Pacific to Atlantic, the author and her sister endure all sorts of hardships and see both the best and the worst of the country. About the book, Renny Russell writes, “Why would two sisters drop out of college and bicycle 3500 miles across America? Let the Wind Push Us Across awakens in us the transformational power of holding fast to one’s dream, not quitting, and going for it no matter what. Determined to dip their tires in the Pacific and eleven weeks later in the Atlantic, the sisters saw an America that few young women witnessed in the 1970s. Before GPS navigation, the Internet and cell phones, this was a remarkable accomplishment. Forty years later, Jane Schapiro recalls the epic ride in poems, philosophical observations, and photographs. Her book is a tour de force, a heart-felt literary achievement. Poignant and refreshing, it is mandatory reading for those who believe that Adventure is not found in a guidebook and Beauty is not on the map." The gorgeous photographs in the book are by Shin-ichi Kumanomido, who accompanied the young bicyclists.
  let the wind push us across cover image
  Cover & text photos by Shin-ichi Kumanomido.

Jane Schapiro is the author of a volume of poetry, Tapping This Stone (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 1995) and the non-fiction book Inside a Class Action: The Holocaust and the Swiss Banks (University of Wisconsin, 2003), selected for the Notable Trials Library. Her chapbook Mrs. Cave’s House won the 2012 Sow’s Ear Poetry Chapbook competition.  Her poems have appeared in publications such as The American Scholar, Christian Science Monitor, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, The Sun, Women’s Review of Books, and Yankee. She is an academic tutor in the Athletic Department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.  Her website is www.janeschapiro.com.

Click here for sample poems and here for a podcast concerning the biking adventure that led to the book.
Click here to view upcoming events.
Click here to read ancillary material in the Seminar Room.


ISBN 978-1-943826-23-0

First Edition 2017

6" x 9" paperback, 60 pages

This book can be ordered from all bookstores, including Amazon.



Copyright © 2017 by Jane Schapiro


Sisters, Oregon

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.


Provo, Utah

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.
A slit separated her tire from mine,
a margin so thin one careless brush

could topple us.

Tallulah, Louisiana

We were so happy in that motel room,
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).
The police!
His glass eye is bulging.
Kuma’s packing his bags,
scurrying around,
we are shaking
“Dumb ass gook!”
it all comes clear—
the heat, the energy,
what is driving this storm.

Our naïveté sank inside that eye.

Vicksburg, Mississippi

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.

Magee, Mississippi

 The sign read
Tattoos and Guns
so why did we
drop our bikes
ring the bell
step inside
what made us
linger amid
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
ran outside
laughing screaming
rode off abreast.