Installment 40 travels further in time than any poem published here. David Cull presented “The Ride” to one of the “basement workshops” during the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, organized chiefly by Warren Tallman and Robert Creeley. A trip worth taking slowly.
To begin with; say you drive a motorcycle west, from Princeton or the summit just beyond that point, toward the city — now a hundred miles away. And say it is an afternoon; the sun cuts brightly through the trees, the shadows crisp although already late September; green, traced gold, the jackpines almost black against the rusty dirt. And Sunday; traffic bunching and congesting further in. The road down, say, from here (the summit) miles of curving mountain, down and swinging sideways as the Smilkameen winds through the thick green ridges to the head of water (Hope), the Fraser, and the broad, flat valley opens to the sea. I mean the mind’s eye holds; the sea, the river’s mouth, the city; forms and places both sides, thirty miles – have lived here long as you remember. Or, imagine it, the boundaries are given; goals, the slope, a slide that children play on for the pleasure of the loins. Or any method, way to get there; any way you can. As this is where I am, and you are; I propose to ride it. I propose you ride the story; all the way down.
“to imitate, not to copy nature, not
to copy nature
not prostrate, to copy nature
but a dance! to dance
two and two with him –”
William Carlos Williams
If only you were fast enough to keep it going, you could even ride it upside down. If only, you were – – – I mean, you are, and that not possible to feel, even at night, it keeps slipping away. Losing itself in frantic lunging; a determined spasm that the body keeps repeating, independent and completely separate. I mean I only know what’s happening suddenly, as if it was by chance to see the gravel spinning out beside the tires, the trees, the road curves round a long slow scream of rubber, feet down both sides, leaning crazily across that line of panic for the pavement somehow slips back under and the accident, the ACCIDENT, is only in the mind that saw it there. I’m left with wonder; strands of blood and muscle still unclenching, waves of terror; I must feel the way back into a body that is suddenly mine again.
To let her lead. The trick to lie in that position; lie down under it — but not a weight, not passive as the road is never straight forever. You can’t begin to fall asleep in the act of it, as some propose. There is no simple statement, proposition that will hold. I mean you have to learn, to earn; the past is such and I do carry it, or why else would I find myself lunging, rigid, and the whole dance falls away. Against the flesh I do so want to be in, not outside of, hammering. The words don’t hold you there; apology is out at 65 or any speed that won’t flow over the occasion, the geography of motion. Or, as it was down, around the shadow of a mountain that you entered in a burnt-off slash, the fireweed pinkish-gold, the sun so catches it. One curve, it is a circle, half a circle and the angle varies with the curve, but down, past head of water, down to enter a new valley, new configuration of the river in the landscape. Down in darkness; cold builds inward from my face and feet. The trees appear; dull green in darkness, (‘trees are ominous’), my ears are popping and the whole thing holds, so long, as long as life, five miles, the constant angle, BURSTS; the sunlight – – – GREEN, and you must enter a new universe.
And you do. Or I do, constantly amazed, or dazzled by the sunlight, darkness, lightbulb flashed on in a dark room, or behind an open doorway: as a friend said, ‘after I got used to it I could see movies’. But she was in her cage and clung to his arm, rigid, thought they laughed at her who laughed to see the pleasure of its flashing. Love, the changes. I mean, ever since I was small I’ve wanted to be weightless, would turn summersaults in water; endless, gasping air/sea circles till I lost my count and wound up gulping air where only water was. And always swam with eyes wide open underwater; trying to be flying. So there I am, or as it comes it feels as though I’ve been before, that much of what one does is repetition. And how do you make it clear to another; how to proceed in that strange forest. All the trees are unfamiliar, the figures hanging in the branches. What could I tell her, who can barely keep myself from falling, every time. Or don’t explain; that way the words won’t catch up, keep you from her. What then? Will you do it; just begin, reach out and touch her? Somehow, push the right button and the whole mass of complication starts down the hill with you on top of it? Proposing to catch up as best you can. To catch your breath. To breathe, simply. It’s not that difficult. You love her, tell her so. But the propositions are useless; empty gesture. I mean, eyes shift; suddenly and tensely sideways, and the past, the weight I carry as intentions, principles of motion hang behind them, visible. Even the simplest gesture — I would cup her breasts because they are lovely; hand moves naturally, and of its own propulsion . . . CAUGHT — the fingers frozen to a rigid, strained insistence, hours later. Changed, or chained to worn out definitions. Draw back, suddenly; the twitch alarms her.
Even in darkness. Fast enough to ride it, upside down, or any other gesture palls, or pales; the light breaks in around the edges and I find myself, squinting. Turning away from her. And again proposing to lie down. To lie her down. To follow the preventions, curves, the part of; as the hill thrusts upward, lifts me by the crotch, an angle up, the hand twists back to feel the motion. square cut opens where the trees, the top, frames sky the eye climbs into. Or out of. And I find myself there, suddenly, the wheels slam down; the awkward, grinding gesture. To get back to it, to find it is a groove. Must find what I can never ask for, never ask her for, her smiles so question me. You’ve got to SLIP back into, somehow, go on riding. And the land does change; the valley opens and the hills are random, rising and falling, and the river, wider, swinging round through many channels. I mean, land does change; the pavement widens as the valley broadens, straightens, gains direction and the flow is down; the traffic holds it. Faster then, and you must move to swing behind it, say a truck; ‘tailgating’, locked behind a hi-ball semi — suction pulls you after. That’s the edge, I tell you; that close; five feet back, the slipstream; dust meets round behind, the wind now trailing after. Feel, the grip the skin holds; pleasure and the trap, the TRAP is mind’s confusion. Focus on the door, the rigid, ugly lunging. Still, the road moves, truck shifts, swerves around another semi, brakes, goes faster, and the silence fools; the mind/the door that no one enters. Dust-streaked steel, a licence from Alaska; 60 say, or 70, so fast, no faster.
There I am. I mean, it all does end; the freeway, free ride over, shifts, or falls away, cries out, breathes harder, hands slide tighter, side to side and moaning. And the road is narrow; lines of cars congest it. Slowed down, trapped by the occasion. Say it! alright? baby – – – baby? Words won’t hold, the mind, caught, batters at the edges; cursing situations, fate, the old excuses. I mean not to stop, to keep on driving forward, somehow not in desperation, but to move, say 80, 90, down a long flat line of cars to miss the coming traffic. With it! Somehow with the feel of my own breathing; not the head, cock, any simple function. (Love, the changes) And the past squirms by; ‘I am that bike; that much of a projection. NOT there; god knows I am not some kind of ‘knowing’, reasons, outworn gesture. And the accident is someone else’s; passes by along the road so fast I could not wish it to be faster. I am still here! Love, I love you. I am trying to be with you. I want you to be here too. In darkness I will put my arms around you; lift me, be with me. The road blurs down the edges, cars scream by, the mountains shift from green to ghostly blue, the hills are moving under me. I love you. Feet, shake under it; your back is arching, under it, your hands on my back, ache in memory of you. The road goes down. The hill goes down, around the curve — is down. Around the trees; the forest of the world goes down. It falls down, drops away behind; the road streams out of it. The flat green farms fall — down, away from it, away from me; the barns fall, yellow haystacks fall. Behind me, bright red billboards fall, the fields fall, Green falls, Yellow falls, the fire falls, RED . . . the sun falls, god, the road falls, under me, the black falls, everything, the road is. Everything is falling; down, down, down, the head down, mind down, body down the road down . . . FALLS
The road goes down the tunnel underneath the river to the city; where the people live.