Here’s a Love Poem to My Grandmother’s Bicycle

~for Diane Pridgeon


In Traverse City they have gutted the asylum. There are traces
everywhere. In its repurposed rooms and new
restaurants and artisanal shops. Hand in
hand, my girlfriend and I eat gelato and step across
the grounds. We know the patients here were treated
with marigolds, their scent having long ago driven
the dismayed horn worms away from these gardens. I see a woman
piloting her bike recklessly down the middle of a narrow and
defiant street, a white poodle prancing alongside her.
Immediately, I prescribe beauty
as therapy. How else could you explain this animal
carrying her along in the tide of its
soft mouth? My grandmother has a bike like hers.
She rides it along dirt roads at the farm where she has lived
all her life. Along the dark light of the fir trees
and the trembling cornrows and the pigs breathing
in their pens. Only now has she begun
to travel, board planes to distant countries she’d never dreamt of
before. We don’t share any blood between us, but she was just a teenager
when her two brothers and father died in a plane accident and arrived
in those portraits above the stairs where I’ve known them
all my life. Of my three grandmothers, she is the one
I most wish to protect. To treat kindly with bright flowers
of all kinds. To take on slow rides across the grounds
in my basket. To sing for. In the summer,
I will be grateful to the orchards, to the blue bicycle
which will move my grandmother from one place to another
without me. Which will take her apple-picking at sunrise
and will offer her a ride home, canvas bouncing happily
against her shins. And she will know that this is good—a teenager again
lying across the grass of the asylum. Mouth to shifting
mouth. In the stems of the crushed bloodroots at their backs, swaying.

Darius Atefat-Peckham

Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared in Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Texas Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Brevity, Crab Orchard Review and elsewhere. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora (University of Texas Press). Atefat-Peckham lives in Huntington, West Virginia and studies Creative Writing at Harvard College.

Contributions by Darius Atefat-Peckham