The saddle is frozen solid.
The chronically wet rubber sponge
Inside the leopardskin cover
Crunches like shingle.
I hold my cuff
And wipe off the surface rain,
Lean over and flood the carburettor,
Jump on the start again.
A little plume of steam.
The old tubes cough up a bit of phlegm
I have chronic catarrh, a raw ankle,
Pinkeye, blackheads and foul hair.
I have a humiliating sheepskin coat
And I lust strangely after a new alternator.
Hugo Williams, Sugar Daddy (1970)
Like Thom Gunn, I was always a slightly fraudulent cafe racer.” —
Hugo Williams, ‘Free Lance’, Times Literary Supplement, 14 September 2001.
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (London: The Bodley Head, 1974), 4.
Samuel Beckett in the early 1920s.
Nick Sanders, Fastest Man Around the World (Powys: On the Road Books, 1999), 144.
Across the open countryside,
Into the walls of rain I ride.
It beats my cheek, drenches my knees,
But I am being what I please.
The firm heath stops, and marsh begins.
Now we’re at war: whichever wins
My human will cannot submit
To nature, though brought out of it.
The wheels sink deep; the clear sound blurs:
Still, bent on the handle-bars,
I urge my chosen instrument
Against the mere embodiment.
The front wheel wedges fast between
Two shrubs of glazed insensate green
- Gigantic order in the rim
Of each flat leaf. Black eddies brim
Around my heel which, pressing deep,
Accelerates the waiting sleep.
I used to live in sound, and lacked
Knowledge of still or creeping fact.
But now the stagnant strips my breath,
Leant on my cheek in weight of death.
Though so oppressed I find I may
Through substance move. I pick my way,
Where death and life in one combine,
Through the dark earth that is not mine,
Crowded with fragments, blunt, unformed;
While past my ear where noises swarmed
The marsh plant’s white extremities,
Slow without patience, spread at ease
Invulnerable and soft, extend
With a quiet grasping toward their end.
And though the tubers, once I rot,
Reflesh my bones with pallid knot,
Till swelling out my clothes they feign
This dummy is a man again,
It is as servants they insist,
Without volition that they twist;
And habit does not leave them tired,
By men laboriously acquired.
Cell after cell the plants convert
My special richness in the dirt:
All that they get, they get by chance.
And multiply in ignorance.