Never Crossed

I wrote the following poem in response to something I heard from my grandmother over supper one night and to a glimpse of a faded black and white photograph of her husband, my grandfather, standing in front of a motorcycle.

Years after my grandfather died, at a dinner where my grandmother was present, my son, Eliot (who was a boy at the time), said something about wanting a motorcycle when he got older. My grandmother said, “Well, when I met him, he owned a big Harley-Davidson motorcycle and was about to take out across the country and back on that thing. After he met me, that was all over. I told him that motorcycles was dangerous—I seen a man get kilt on one.”

Here’s the poem. It’s not actually about my grandparents; it’s more about where her story and the photograph of him took my imagination. The poem is called “Never Crossed”:

As free as you can,
As long as you can.
Then a while longer. . .
Those eyes, faded flat,
drab on black and white,
begged me to find my
way: out on the road.

Tough cracked black cowhide,
Thin white cotton shirt.
Blue Levi’s, no belt,
Cuffs stuffed in scuffed boots.
Behind him, low slung,
mirroring chrome, stood
The Harley: road ready.

Not him, after all.
She seen a man kilt
on one of them things.
Said: too dangerous.
And she was. For him.
He never crossed her,
Never crossed the hills.