Los Angeles, 1990

By: Jerry Williams

Featured art: Motorcycle Race (Motorradrennen) by Oskar Nerlinger

I can recall riding a Kawasaki 750
down Sunset Boulevard
on a Saturday afternoon in light traffic.
Cruising along at thirty mph in fourth gear,
I let go of the handlebars,
braced myself on the fuel tank,
and slowly rose to my feet.
Helmetless, I stood like a surfer in the wind
on the imitation leather seat,
my longish hair blown back,
sunshine bursting through my goggles.
A thin membrane of fear lined
the inside of an urn made of pure joy.
After about an eighth of a mile,
I returned to the legal sitting position
and only then did I notice my runaway pulse.
When you’re twenty-three years old
the saddle of a thousand-pound motorcycle
feels as firm as the ground you walk on.
You get full access to your inner maniac.
Nowadays, doctors and sounder reasoning
have rescued me from worldly vices
and a rapid heartbeat often provokes alarm.
But I miss the brash torque of myself,
the quality of light in that urban desert,
all the midnights and years out in front of me
like the beautiful stupid jewels of infinity.

Jerry Williams is an associate professor at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. His books include Casino of the Sun and Admission, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press.

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