sliding like syrup down penn avenue back pressing to regulate speed i recall the pain that followed the last long ride, insurrection of knees and thighs.
the strip also is easy but not vacant; in the empty left lane i pass a car double-parked and at 16th street slither onto the bridge's sidewalk and slide lazily across reading the first few sentences of the landmark plaque as i pass looking down on industrial ruins and the river smiling toward you.
the war streets equally tranquil, unpurposing pedestrians amble dogs pacing yards' perimeters; in west allegheny the streets belong to young black men who eye my yellow shell my helmet my tights -- faces small inside flopping coronas of hair combed out radially -- as i stop to look up at your building fish my phone from my bag call to leave a message eagerness and ramble before pedaling on, turning right once and again onto beech past gertrude stein's former brownstone (which you showed me) and then down to join the park's eastern boundary around to entombment beneath the hideous architecture of equitable plaza (if that's what it is), a jumble of knocking steam radiators, then fjording the allegheny to downtown where the theatre district bustles with matinee idylls unattended children in unzipped down coats unabashed with round bellies protruding arms wide like spread wings and the well-dressed weaving among them grinning anticipation.
point park is empty: apocalyptic silence between the rivers sunday afternoon strange; about its perimeter on brick and fragmented pavement and again brick i shudder, the fountain still mudded with memories of recent floods, miniature floodplains in sidewalk depressions rent like children's drawings of broken windows, jagged like lightning, the stadium colorfully sunning and your home in its shadow.
reasoning a slack figure-eight to emerge at the street a lingering memory of one lonely man slouched on a bench along the mon, wool hat garish and mismatched to his coat and its fur-lined hood ruddy necked -- happy sad lonely free ?
the boulevard and signs of life, of death: police cluster roadside body language resigned in twos around a dead man supine in the street beneath the open door of his truck which veered off the road and struck at high speed a lightpole now leaning distressed into the front end's toothy embrace; flowing with traffic into the left lane i am relieved the voyeur's burden, my path littered with tire-shredding broken glass plastic a side-view mirror mimicking its owner's posture sightless eye peering skyward i wend slowly catching movement in the corner of my eye as i pass: not dead but a grave man still, the officers slump surrender to death's prerogative.
on the jail trail i pass pedestrians skaters dogs; focusing on cadence i accelerate until the wind convects thundrous about my ears, eyes water but how can i weep for an old man whose sunday drive turned mean . . . .
the trail dives helically to an unfamiliar access road in panther hollow in the long shadow of
dreading the implacable ascent to fifth avenue aching lungs wrists shaken numb with 15 miles' reverberations thighs jellied by endless pedaling i climb under the bridge into schenley past a black tunnel suggesting morlocks -- eliciting a lygophobic chill
the final hill
is only moderately difficult
as i stand
into the pedals
pulling the bike
to and fro
as i lean across it
cresting the hill
the light turns green
i ease through
catch my wind
arisen like orpheus from the depths of panther hollow, eurydice lingering stone-faced in the gulley near the tunnel's maw unless she chose to remain: would that i weren't the only one to rally today from a submersion.