The bicycles of ice and salt
Green panniers strapped and hooked to racks
we pedal the east of France, this autumn so bitter
the bicycles grow ice in their chains.
They sing like birds, says a lyrical
bike mechanic in Troyes. He hoses them down
with hot water, and they go quiet.
We ride through white bees of hoarfrost
that blur our eyelashes. Ice narrows us.
We count the centimes
double the bread ration, camp
in a numb cold. In Avignon the Mistral
rips up our tent pegs, hurls us south.
We ride till our freewheels tick on a track
to the sea. December, and a beach
washed black by short days.
Glassy waves crash in the dark. We hear them
break. There is no more ice, only a swell
of salt to melt the heart.
Jean Atkin’s latest book is ‘Fan-peckled’ from Fair Acre Press. Her second collection ‘How Time is in Fields’ came out from IDP in 2019. In 2019 she was Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival and BBC National Poetry Day Poet for Shropshire. www.jeanatkin.com