In life, it was a
but snapped at ease on its side against next-door's
beech's roots, it cuts angles and curves
like a legless wedding-day uncle.
And the straight man
to this comic, my father -
thirtyish, type of the colonial
baddie in Biggles - is smiling, Brylcreem'd,
lean in crimped khaki. The rest is shadow.
But this past is still
touchable. Nothing clouds
my picture of one end-of-Whitsun day
when locked on a Wye Valley tour's spaces,
my father gushed to a gabby seven-years-old,
and the Hercules came
into its name.
The way he told it, it was a swerver,
a darting downhill rattler, a brawler
against headwinds. That high week, man and bike
were born again freewheelers.
a finger nicotined dark as teak
trampoline above a map, stroke each day's route,
stab places he'd talked evenings away
with Border widow
landladies. Their deep-flock
mattresses and Beano suppers grew
large with Homeric telling. Symonds Yat
Tintern, Chepstow, Ross
names floated by me
like balloons out
of reach. But later,
I knew it for a last fling before Hitler's
long winter. Upended in our backyard,
an orange-mottled flaky frame for thistles,
the bike snagged my
mother's sheets for years.