She wrapped a tea-towel around buns or a brack,
packed sandwiches into a bread-bag
and strapped me into the seat on the back.
I pressed against her, arms around her waist,
her strong swimmer’s legs pushing us up the brae,
(legs that had saved a child from a whirlpool one day
in Donegal). Long grasses, cow parsley
crowded us as she worked and swayed
and sang, ‘then up she goes to Antonio
with his ice cream cart’; on evenings in summer
we called with neighbours,
Annie’s sick brother, Jamesy’s mother.
One August evening, daylight almost gone,
she clicked the dynamo on, I heard its secret song,
‘up we go, up we go, oh Antonio’,
the lamp flickered in time with the pedals
when she stood up in the saddle for the hill.
Down the other side it was all freewheel,
midges, swallows, hedges flitted past
till we spun faster, faster,
her blowing hair and laughter
were all a blur,
as the warm air and wheels’ whirr
lulled me to sleep against her constant back.
“There is a wonderfully sustained tension in this poem between the movement of the bike and the constancy of the mother’s back. As the poem progresses, and the bike accumulates not just speed but a blur of images (blown hair, midges, swallows), so the child finds itself lulled, in direct proportion, into stillness and, finally, to sleep.”
Julia Copus, Judge in National Poetry Competition 2013, for which Push-Bike received a Commendation.