Janet Newman


Cycling at Dawn

I hear the metronomic click of gears, the clack
of cleated shoes as you prepare to launch

not astride but slipped over like a second skin
bulked with all your flesh. Your thighs

— bronzed even on a dull day — sucked
into airless shorts, your chest vacuum packed

in viscose, your head inside a helmet
curved to cut through air and on your back

the water pack and tool kit cling
like a caterpillar suckered to a leaf.

Your focus is fixed between thumbs
right angled to handlebars. Fingers curled

under, knuckles taut in gore-tex mitts.
Spokes glint in the morning sun, the rear tyre

in a pre-emptive spin skids back to earth.
Arched over the fragile frame your skin

gleams in ripe aplomb. How ageless

you look as you glide

towards the drop
though years and years

I’ve seen this scene. Foot clips engage,
pinions mesh, you press the pedal

push off from gravel. Pulled by gravity
without drag you are kinetic. For a time

time seems to stop

as you fly or float out of sight

until I hear the familiar whirr
of you returning on your silver wheels.



Janet Newman’s poems have been published in bravado, NZ Poetry, blackmail press, a fine line, NZ Poetry Society anthologies Before the Sirocco and Across the Fingerboards, and Nth Degree. She is completing a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English at Massey University, New Zealand.

Newman writes: “Reading Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ with its descriptions of the ever-youthful dawn goddess Aurora and her horsedrawn chariot, for a Massey Victorian writing paper while watching Frank set off on his mountain bike, conspired to create a contemporary image of agelessness in ‘Cycling at Dawn’. (The last line of Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ is “And thee returning on thy silver wheels”.)”