by Martha Hayes
After our birthday party, I took the picture.
You and your new bicycle: a shiny ten-speed
whose spokes spun fireworks
when the sun caught you in flight.
My new lens drew you out of that winter day.
My nose pressed against the cold plastic
like your first signs of womanhood
behind your child-sized sweater.
A ceremonious photo because
years earlier you had asked me
would I learn you to ride a bike,
our mother swept along by the new life
that rolled through her, swelled her round.
I sent you gently down
the curl of lawn
soon you flew, fear
gave way to passion,
tires spun in perfect rounds ~
roulette wheels you could
stop at will.
While our mother buttered
store-bought bread, trailed
the stream of spilled milk, chased
Winter afternoons around six square
rooms and too many children,
I watched the clean spin of you,
five years behind me in this whirl.
Now, as a grown woman, you ask me
what it means to want—for passion,
and the deep dark secrets that we tumble through—
how can we pull May out of February?
I look at you
across our birthday dinner, scraps
of foreign food, pieces of wrapping torn
from our grown-up gifts, and I cannot answer.
Because, like you sister, I do not know.
Martha Hayes, Professor of English at Gateway Community College in New Haven Connecticut, is a poet and essayist, whose work has appeared and is forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies, including Freshwater, Fresh Ink, Naugatuck River Review, Vermont Literary Review, and Journey to Crone. Her poem, “Ella Clare” won first prize in the 2010 Altrusa International of Central Connecticut Poetry Contest. She has presented her innovative teaching ideas at worldwide conferences in countries as diverse as China, Nepal, and Brazil. An ambitious traveler, her poetry has been inspired by scenarios as varied as the jungle solitude of Mayan ruins and the claustrophobic warrens of the Medina in Fez, Morocco.