The Bicycle Garden

for Alix Sharkey

The graves of children who go missing
are abandoned bicycles set in concrete
bases lowered into shallow trenches
by the railway bridge and left to rust.
The engineer (retired) who tends
the place says visitors are few—
he imagines parents driving slowly by
or peering through the wire-mesh fence
for a particular shade of paint or rake
of handlebar, but they don’t come in.
And there it was, this gaunt tableau
of BMXs, racers, mountain bikes,
an aged Vespa with its fairing crushed,
and tricycles with tassels tied to handlegrips
or crossbars, where they stayed, seeming,
to those who looked, to rise up from the ground
or sink into it. You turn away—
because there’s no such garden, though
the bicycles are often all that’s found.
An end-page columnist invented it,
when it seemed to him society
was waging war on being young,
on children who enticed and let you
down. So he dreamed a garden for them,
and the engineer was somehow odd
enough to make the whole thing real,
a sleight that left its maker lying
with the silence in his ears, as if
some violence had been done.

Previously published in Fire No. 24, 2004
ISSN:1367 031X and What Moves Moves
Shoestring Press, 2004. ISBN: 1 904886 05 1