Riding with Delight
Buffalo, January, 1997
A woman stood beside a drift,
*****her red coat whipping knees.
The man called out, “You need a lift?”
*****and she called back, “Yes, please!”
Sliding in the man’s warm car,
*****she shivered but looked bright.
“At least a foot of snow so far,
*****but cozy here. I’m Delight.”
Then she edged a little closer.
*****He glanced, askance. “So,
where to, Delight?” She smiled. “Sir,
*****any place you know.”
He was perplexed as miles went by
*****and pulled into an empty lot
to ask again…she stroked his thigh.
*****He lurched away and shot
a crimson glower as he blurted,
*****“I am married, miss!”
He continued, disconcerted,
*****“And I’m eighty-six!”
For just a moment, she looked stunned,
*****but crooned, “Hats off to you.
You’ll have a lovely time, hon,
*****doing someone new–”
“NO!” he boomed. Delight withdrew.
*****“A lift,” he said. “That’s it.”
With one more trick left in her queue,
*****she lunged–the engine quit,
its key now clenched inside her fist.
*****He spluttered, “Give that back!”
Delight leapt from the car and hissed,
*****“You know I need some jack!
“You want your key? Gimme fifty.”
*****He rumbled, “Not one dime.”
“You’re old and dumb, Mister Thrifty,”
*****she sneered. “Your loss, big time.”
She swung her arm like a turbofan,
*****about to fling the key.
He didn’t move a muscle. “Old man,
*****you’re tough. Tougher than me.”
She gave it back and slumped away,
*****her shoulders white with snow.
Through her dismay she heard him say,
*****“I’ll take you back. Let’s go.”
As he drove his face stayed red.
*****She hopped out by the pub
where he had picked her up, and said,
*****“You’re a gentleman, Bub.”
From the day a call confirmed his fear,
dread is a bell that won’t stop ringing.
His favorite sounds begin to disappear:
Alpine wind–that music of the spheres,
an eagle’s shriek, his piton hammer pinging.
A call has now confirmed the fear
that chills the fire of this mountaineer.
His hope to soar off cliffs, a human winging
in thermal loft, begins to disappear.
He’d left the law and mapped a guide’s career–
leading others up the trails in springing
steps. But then the call confirmed his fear.
Just now he grapples with his mind unclear–
he dreams he’s climbing Annapurna, clinging
to breath as mist begins to disappear.
His lips twitch up a little; he can hear
the mountain song that she is softly singing.
From the day the call confirmed his fear,
all but love will slowly disappear.
Grocery list in hand, Mom asked,
****Want to come or stay?
I said that I was old enough
****(six, that summer day)
to wait for her in the car,
****the windows open wide.
I colored in my coloring book
****till people came beside
the car, shadowing my page.
****A man and woman brightly
smiled at me behind dark glasses.
****She spoke first, lightly:
Come along with us for ice cream–
****it will be our treat!
I said I had to wait for Mom,
****and slunk down in my seat.
We won’t be long, the lady cooed.
****You’ll be back when Mom is.
Don’t you like ice cream, sweetheart?
****Yes, I said, but I promised
to stay here in the….then the man
is that for this ungrateful girl.
****He touched the brim of his hat
and took the woman’s arm. With glances
****darting left and right,
they hustled off. Rolling up
****every window tight,
I hardly moved until my mom
****slid in the car at last.
I blurted what the strangers said,
****my story tumbling fast.
But Mom was quiet. I kept on,
****Aren’t you scared or mad?
Should we go to the police?
****Tonight we should tell Dad!
At that she gave a little start
****and silence filled the air.
My mother’s eyes grew wide as she
****then fixed me in her stare:
Now don’t you go and stir up trouble–
****don’t make Dad upset.
Her voice was lower when she added,
****You’ve made this up, I bet.
She turned the key and calmly said,
****IF that happened, then
you did the right thing. No need
****to speak of this again.
My mother’s doubt and curt dismissal
****held one taste of praise.
I tried to savor that in thoughts
****that haunted me for days.
The burden in my life of flight
is hauling all that weighs me down.
Why won’t I look to travel light?
The guidebook chides to get it right,
what not to tote when traipsing towns.
I’d be a bird in a life of flight
if I’d remember to keep bright
eyes alert, ears perked for sound.
I should look, and travel light-
hearted, so that laughter might
upend my disapproving frown,
a burden in my life of flight.
Midnight demons stir, incite
a wave of fears where I might drown.
In darkness I can’t travel light.
But just a fleeting guide at night–
some brief, ineffable surround–
would lift my burden, give me flight.
I look to find a traveling Light.
Barbara Lydecker Crane, a finalist for the 2017 and the 2019 Rattle Poetry Prize, has won two Laureate’s Choice awards from the Maria Faust Sonnet Contest, and First and Second Prizes in the Helen Schaible Sonnet Contest. She has published three chapbooks: Zero Gravitas, Alphabetricks, and BackWords Logic. Her poems have appeared in The Comstock Review, First Things, Light, Measure, Think, Valpairiso Poetry Review, Writer’s Almanac, and several anthologies. She is also an artist.