“The Minstrel Cycle” by Craig van Rooyen

Craig van Rooyen


is a group bike ride involving guys in tight pants
and floppy hats with feathers, I tell my daughter.
They play flutes and lutes and flageolets
and recite poetry while they pedal.

She asked—shyly passing a note in her 2nd grade script.
I didn’t misspell anything. Plus what am I supposed to say
about training bras and tampons—still years away?
OK, for reals, I say, lying next to her in the dark:

There’s a whole frickin’ peloton of these guys.
They decorate their bicycles with cowslips, primrose,
foxglove flowers. They ride (no hands) into town
with the breeze on a warm summer evening.

And the frogs and crickets go quiet just to listen
to them tell knock knock jokes. They ride in circles
around the Mission square, long hair blowing back.
There will be time enough for the rest. To tell her the part

about how they stop their bikes and pull out
their horns. There will be time for her to hear the music—
how they play the sound of summer—the heat of it,
the ice-cream sundae smell of it; how they play

sun on wild rye, barefoot prints in the key of oak tree
shade—how they play it lazy like a shallow creek
on Mississippi mud; how they play it quick
like a lizard tongue or thumping like a dog’s tail.

There will be time for her to hear them play it loud
like the Fourth of July then gentle like a mama duck.
And when the sun is down and the bats come out—
specks in a darkening glass—she will hear them play

“We’ve Got All The Time in The World,” and know
that they are lying—lying in their floppy hats,
lying in their funny pants, lying with every last breath
they let out of those beautiful sad horns.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Craig van Rooyen: “One of my biggest faults is avoiding hard conversations. Among other things, writing poetry is a way to trick myself into saying things I would not otherwise say and knowing things I would not otherwise know.”

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