A ghost bike is a roadside memorial for a bicyclist who is killed on the street. A bicycle, along with a small plaque, is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site.
Ghost Bike is an in-progress group of poems about ‘Anders—his name is a diminutive of meanders—who continues to ride his bike throughout the country after he is killed by a truck. ‘Anders is a ghost biker who rides a ghost bike. I hope you have seen him
THE GRAVEL BRIDGE IN GLOWING DARK
As ‘Anders crossed
River into Nebraska, the bright lights
of rigs behind him flashed a warning.
They cloaked him in a glow—it was
ghostly—his taillight flashing, his bike
drifting to the right of the white line,
unbalanced like a breakneck wobble.
And all ‘Anders heard above the crunch
of wheels on gravel was the looming horizon
humof the feeding lot valley in Valentine.
When he wrecked, there, on the bridge,
a stiff headwind delivered the roadkill stench—
the steer, bloated, eyes bulging, longhorns
on the cracked shoulder of a fly buzzed road.
In this picture of Nebraska
you don’t see ‘Anders double over—
his arms curled like handlebars
burn, thumbs cramped—
the meager shade of a dwarf oak
doing whatever to cool him off—
or how he stumbles up
the sandhill toward the frame
of blue sky, where his bike hums
along a ridge of stop sign and wire,
the Midwest wind racing like a fire
down the far side to the Niobrara.
THE GHOST BIKERS OF IOWA
are unlike the thousands of other bikers
with one wheel in
the Missouri, the other
pointing to the Mississippi, day bikers for an August
week who will ride one silo town to another.
All blistering day they’ll eat farm boy
burritos, pork chops, whole Amish pies.
Every muggy night they’ll drink beer
from Grinnel before collapsing in tents.
They are unlike the ghost bikers of Iowa
who ride from forever on the road of sleep,
who wheel like shadows over the rivers
and hills into the dreams of day bikers in Iowa.
‘ANDERS AMONG GHOST BIKERS
Along the Pacific Highway, ‘Anders
stops ata roadside memorial for an unknown ghostbiker. The wind that passes by him
moves down one grade and up another
until far in the distance of Big Sur
it blows into a soupy mix of mist and fog.
This you watch from the cliff of the road,
suddenly tilting like a lighthouse
until the darkeningly frightful noon
of memory and the convocation
of all the ghost bikers in the world signal
youyour light guides them home.
Richard Long is Professor of English at St. Louis Community College—Meramec in Missouri, USA. He also edits 2River, quarterly publishing The 2River View and occasionally publishing individual authors in the 2River Chapbook Series. During the summer, he rides his bicycle self-supported throughout the country.
Check out 2River and contact Richard Long at www.2River.org