Girl as Bike
The stethoscope answered in fluent Italian:
not a heartbeat, but the humming cadence
of a Campagnolo crankset. My father understood,
painted white lines around my cot, wrapped
childhood injuries in handlebar tape.
The moon's Anglepoise picked out
my race geometry: one knee raised, fists
loosely clenched, hands small enough
to forge tiny bikes from stretched-out paperclips
and roll them round a fruit-bowl velodrome.
In my teens, x-rays confirmed bones
of hollow carbon, ball bearings in the joints,
sinews and ligaments of fine steel cable.
So when I had to try four wheels and an engine
I kept energy bars in the glovebox,
insisted on an open sunroof in heavy rain.
My instructor asked Why are you leaning
into the bends? I told him if I couldn't sling it
over my shoulder and jog up a flight
of stone steps in Milan or Barcelona,
it wasn't for me. I sold the car,
spent the cash on seven kilos of hollow carbon,
the fluent Italian of a Campagnolo crankset,
tattooed an oily chainprint inside my right calf.
This poem is from Rosalind's award-winning pamphlet, Black Mascara (Waterproof), published by The Poetry Business in February 2021. You can find it here.