Blast From the Past: Incidente

Originally posted on November 5, 2015 at 9:01 am


Editor’s note: Incidente originally appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #85, published in April 2001. Words by John Freeman. Art by Rudi Nadler.

They have brought in the young American
from very high up in the mountains
—dark and Italian—
one of them speeding dangerously down its spiraling curves
the other waving a frantic handkerchief in warning,
risking the very same accident
that has just claimed this bleeding one and his bicycle
with its twisted handlebars
& turned-out pack all over the road
(what it must be like to be thrown
from one dimension into another)
And it takes him two languages
to explain how it happened, this disfigurement—
the locked knee, the scrapes aflame with pain,
red badges awarded along the road

But there is no language that can quite tell the rest—
Awakened in the first dew of the morning
in the white dawn of dream horses,
snuffing and prancing in underwater grace.
The pure and endless sail of bicycle spokes threshing,
spinning in glinting sparks of light—
a nomad living off the fruit I could pick, the bread
I could beg, the chance sweetness of flashing in and out
of others’ lives
Soaked to the bone in nose-dripping rain on the way to Chartres
just because of some picture I had seen before;
driven to a gas station (abandoned)
with a French motorcycle gang
who took out arrow markers and posted them on the road
tricking people in their comfortable cars
off the road, into their ghost station, leaving
one lonely arrow pointing to Heaven.
Lost and tourist-struck on the Riviera,
gawking and begawked, standing by the wharf of parked yachts,
while a mechanical bird zipped wildly by on unseen wires.
In a lonely, lost field,
the full-length tomb of three balloonmen
shot down in the War, men fallen out of the sky,
sealed forever in the bronze of sleep

And now Italy, sleeping on beaches by the soft wash of waves,
eating yogurt and bananas, at one with
the easy motion of the bike, its turn of light in spokes,
celestial music of wheat fields
swaying more in the light than in the wind—
ride/walking up the stubborn heights of mountains
then descending wildly, curving and uncaring—
thrown headlong and caught in the twisting cross-currents
of speed warping metal
Now the hospital is buzzing with my badly translated tale

Warm bowls of coffee in the morning
Then butterfly X-rays of my lungs
And the doctor trying to understand how I have come
from Liverpool to unexpectedly here, 31,
Asking, “But where did you sleep along the way?”
I smile—
“Sotto le stelle … soto le stelle … ”
Under the stars … under the stars …

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