My Father on a Bicycle

If you ever saw my father in shorts,
you wouldn't forget his stick-thin legs,
the knees knobby as windfall dwarf apples.

I like this description of a dad’s knees, one doesn’t usually think of a father as having knobby knees, it’s a refreshing description and makes me like this man from the beginning of the poem. Rachel McGuinness, age 18

And the only time I saw him ride a bike,
Oakes Street, I think, he pedaled "no hands"
down the streeet to show me the stance.

I know exactly what this looks like. It is an interesting concept that her father seems frail, yet he is sturdy enough to ride a bike. Rachel Talen, age 21
The father has a sense of humor, I can imagine a knobby kneed awkward fellow riding a bike down the street. Rachel McGuinness, age 18

He wasn't a runner either, thought he'd move
at a quick trot when trouble came to our door--
usually when the twins caught somebody's wrath.
Once they set an oatgrass field on fire, and trucks
came, red and furious down the boulevard.
Another time, after a morning of water-fat balloons
lobbed at cars, the cops shadowed our porch.
Our father was an ambler, a stroller, a tall stander.
I can see him, heron-alert, bare-headed,

I like the comparison of her father to a heron slow moving and laid back,
yet quick and alert when necessary. Kara Madden, age 22
I love these descriptive words and the comparison of him to a heron makes him appear heroic, a silent protector of his family and household. Rachel McGuinness, age 18

the waters of the Satsop or Nooksack, the cold
Chehalis, up past his knees, casting a line
among boulders, deadwood, and drop-offs.
Deep, moving water his abiding friend.

What I’m most struck by in this poem is the way in which the visual memories of the father move into one another until the image of him seems to, in a way sink into the deep water at the end of the poem. The ending is abrupt and without any sense of closure, almost as if the poet is shaken from her recollection by something. Kyle Austin, age 21

"My Father on a Bicycle" appears with permission of the author; published originally in The Atlantic Monthly and reprinted in My Father on a Bicycle, copyright 2005 Michigan State University Press.

Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.