He rode “no hands,” speeding
headlong down the hill near
our house, his arms extended,
held rigid away from his body,
our small daughter behind him
on the bike in her yellow sunsuit,
bare-headed. She held on to him
for her life. I watched them from
above—helpless failed brake.
Far below us, a stop-sign rose
like a child’s toy shield. He could
not stop, he would not. That hunger
for display over-rode danger, illusions
of safety. Even death had less to do
with it than the will’s eventual triumph
over stasis: how he’d finally fly free
and how she might accompany him,
as an audience travels with a performer,
an object of regard. Downward, fast—
so what cannot stop holds on, holds on
in a mind flying away from itself, seeking
release from the soul speeding away, yet
staying close as breath, even at this distance.
Copyright © 2014 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Paris Review. Used with permission of the author.
Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 17, 1945. Her poetry collections include Blue Rose (Penguin, 2018), a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Sparrow (Random House, 2003), a National Book Award finalist.
Date Published: 2016-03-29
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/no-hands