Yet One More Page of Verse

Winter Ride 

by John Ewing[1]


Frigid air and freezing frost
With tearsome eyes from tearing blast
On cunning road where shiny shields
Of incognito ice alurk
Awaiting wobbled gumshoe tyre
Conspiring with the furtive ditch
All muddy deep and seeping cold
Beneath a bubbled glassy lid.

We pass them by
My bike and I.

A beaky buzzard in the field
All pouncing feet and tearing points,
Some sleepy darting winter beast
Provides a heart to make a lunch;
A spurt of warmth to nourish flight
With greedy avid eyes abeam
Above a gelid furrow'd field
Waiting for another life
To husband life through gripping cold
Till blood-filled Spring comes back again.

We pass them by
My bike and I.

A standing barn with hay-bale walls,
Quiet horses dark within,
Hairy cattle on a lea,
Standing stolid, steaming breath;
A frozen lake, a runner there
Plodding dogged miles from home;
Shredded cloud on dark-blue sky
Shadowed sun and silver glare -
Promises of snow tonight;
A tractor-throbbing farmyard full
With heaping dung and cobbled mud
And smell of cider vinegar.

We pass them by
My bike and I.

A battlefield, a sullen slope,*
Memorials, and marble steles,
Pompous carvings, dead and cold
Dotted here and dotted there.
Long ago the Prussian charged,
Long ago the hussar fell,
Long ago they ploughed and sowed,
Left their brains and steel behind
And flailing horses foundering.
If you climb up to the right
And stand upon that polished step
The valley view is wonderful.

But we pass by
My bike and I.

A cresting hill, a swooping dive,
Cheekbones peeled with freezing draught
Ear-tips hurting blue-chip ice
Lungs all razorblades of air.
Pavements now, and passers-by
Never glance, it's just a bike,
Cross the road, dear, never mind.
Sway and swerve and pass behind:
Do they feel the rush of air -
Think of crash and shattered bone -
Weeks or years of awkward pain?

We pass them by
My bike and I.

Home ahead and final drive,
Energy to waste on fun,
Gaping throat and hammered heart,
Tarmac hiss and whirling feet,
Plunging through a sudden dip,
Up and out, a long black curve,
Push and push, no need to stint.
Now, a hundred feet to go,
Straighten up and catch the wind
Squeeze the brake, bleed off the speed,
Pop a foot out of the clip,
Trail it down to meet the road
Time its fall till speed is gone,
Feel the warmth of air at rest,
Stop the counter, count the miles.
Just beyond the garden gate
The dog is yodelling: "He's home!"

For bike and I.

* The battlefield is Froeschviller, 1870, which decided the Franco-Prussian war.


John Ewing is a software engineer in his mid-fifties.  Diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1990s, he took up road cycling in 1997 as a means of keeping fit.  He lives in Alsace, France.  His article on the Audax bike ride in which he participated appeared in Issue No. 7 of Nurturing Potential and may be viewed at