The Morning Commute.

Another day, another commute.
In the cold, my bike starts, then flounders.
Again, again. More false starts.
Finally, it turns, rolling, rumbling, and I rev.

The road is rough, and auto-pilot is not an option.
Boulders, crevasses, heaps of buffalo dung,
There is never a smooth ride.

A woman, at the moment of imminent impact,
Plucks her plump young child from the center of the muddy road
And with newfound attention begins inspecting his scalp for nits and lice.

A group of children, huddled ahead.
One sees my approaching white skin.
The huddle is exploded, their voices,
Climbing and clambering over each other.
“HI!” “HI!” HI!”
And when I am 20 feet past, a solitary “How are you?”
Or sometimes “what is your name?”
Or an unsolicited “I am fine!”
A regurgitation of English phrases
From classes based on memorization.

Then, massive lumbering black beasts with wide, sharp horns.
Buffalo – the newborn calf coated in a soft, brown fur
Hurrying alongside the dry, hairless hide of her mother.
I look into the huge, deep, black eyes, and see a void,
As she is driven by a leathered old man with a whip.

A man stands, tall and proud,
Shaking a woven grass plate filled with rice seeds,
As the western wind luffs away the husks into a messy pile.
He sees me, then looks back at his work.
Then he peers quickly back at me again, quizzical.
Just beyond him, a group of three women,
Ancient, wrinkled, peering faces,
Note my foreignness as I whizz by.

One black, one white and spotted brown,
Flat irises and comically oversized ears,
The pair of baby goats sprint alongside me,
Skipping, hopping with furious, uncontainable energy,
They leap onto a pile of stones,
To be used for some new home’s foundation.

A man bends over, reaching
With his blackened, greasy hands
For the handle of his tuk-tuk’s engine,
Frenetically spinning the fly wheel inside.
Until a spark catches, and a sequence of of black, perfect smoke rings,
Is spit from the beast, followed by a cumulus cloud of poison and an angry, shaking roar.

Fields of green and yellow wave lazily in the sun,
As a calf and his mother look up at my descent upon them,
Then, with a confidence that can only mean they know they are holy,
They begin to cross the road, at the last second veering into my path.
I swerve, and immediately a chicken shoots into the way of my wheel,
Hustling forward as I bear down upon it,
Refusing simply to go to the side.

Feeling two metallic bumps underneath, I notice in my mirrors the long metal rods,
Splayed out by some welding shop whose storage space somehow includes half of the road.
A 6 year old boy holding his baby sister are playing their daily hooky,
Staring into the arc of light, burning retinas to absorb the impossibly bright star.

Trotting away from a mob is a dog,
Presumably female and heated, trailed by an overeager, sex deprived,
Group of 5. Relentless, insistent,
They won’t take no for an answer,
And the people and other dogs only look on, unperturbed,
As she tires of the flight and surrenders to their needs.

Here comes an unsure young man,
Riding a bike far too large.
“Balancing,” swerving, twitching,
I am sure he will turn directly into my wheels,
As soon as I pass by.
But they never do.

And finally, the land.
My destination, every day, for 100 days and counting,
And 250 days before that.
My heart, my love and my hate.
The road is always rough,
The challenges too diverse to count,
Too foreign too quantify,
And auto-pilot is not an option.
My mind stretches and billows,
And, feeling the strain, I smile.


10 comments on “The Morning Commute.

  1. Joel says:

    Nice Luke. It reminds me of my bike rides through Surket.

  2. Josh says:

    Wow, Luke, that really conjures up a lot. A very complex picture indeed. I just love all the small details of hectic life in full bloom from the goats’ flat irises to the “hi, hi, hi” of the kids, to your own internal tumult. Keep pulling…

  3. Wimby says:

    An epic poem! It is so well painted! I can smell it.

  4. jane says:

    ah, luke, my poet son, i’m struck by your line about challenges too diverse to count and too foreign to quantify. your father says it’s like moving a mountain with a spoon. i agree but you are gradually doing it despite the love, the hate, the pain, the strain. keep billowing and smiling…

  5. Teri Duffy says:

    Thank you for your work, art in so many different and important forms and most importantly for your courage to “keep on” when it might get discouraging, and I can only imagine the kindness and care you show others. You are a gem!

  6. Camil says:

    Thank you Luke, for giving me in words what you are observing and fathoming in your world halfway across the globe. It is all in the details, come round full circle to your part in the play, not a a mere observer but for real, partcicipating, invested, striving along with the rest, simply to get where you must go each day!. Reminds me, on some level, of our farming years, as I was fathoming the intensity of it by doing it daily. My respect and heart reaches out to you.

  7. Anthony Thacher says:

    Hey Luke! Your are becoming a reasonably good poet. I appreciate your writing style. Tim

  8. cassidia8 says:

    This poem conjures up such great imagery. Nepali streets are so alive!
    Luke, now I must ask, did you kill a chicken? It sounds like you did…

  9. kathy says:

    I SO enjoy your postings – especially this poem. I love how you take in all the details instead of just motoring by..very special

  10. Mark Lackley says:

    I just read through a bunch of your posts and it looks like you’re plowing through the challenges like a champ. I especially like the cordless table saw and the rammed earth press. Awesome stuff.

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