Duck lake, rhododendron garden, deer enclosure.
Rows of gents decked out in diamond patterned jumpers.
Betting slips in hand, swollen bellies.
Sunday dog race, Greenwich.
What I am doing here,
how am I a part of this?
The buzzer goes. Race on.
I push hard on my wheels.
The speedo says 12.3 miles an hour.
Can I outrun the galloping canines?
Behind the spectator gallery, a Boxer dog
loses interest in a frayed tennis ball
and catches a glimpse of me –
takes up the chase.
A Yorkshire Terrier pulls away from its careful lady owner.
Lead dangling, tongue waggling. Breakfast to catch.
A lazy Bulldog barrels towards my racing wheelchair
like a hungry shopper sniffing out a sale queue at Next.
I've been here since 6am and I'm 14 miles tired.
Control your fucking dogs, I shout.
The Bulldog falls, he's out the race.
The Yorkshire's lead is caught round a bench. Two down.
It's me and the Boxer. If I make it to the downhill
victory will be mine.
I take a slug of Lucozade.
Gather a second wind and push hard.
Hit the descent. The MPH climbs to 15, 18, 20, 24.
The Boxer has no chance. He's out
for the count.
I am the victor here.
Sorry lads, no winnings today.
I break hard,
* * *
My face is hot but my body is
air conditioning cold. I am a shadow
on the moon. Accepted but not sure
how I got here.
Can I cross the road in America?
The voice in my lamppost says yes,
but only if I walk towards the other side.
I have no option but to ignore the instruction
and push. A man in oil stained overalls
holds a leaf blower and pauses as I roll past,
the leaves momentarily still.
I raise a British hand, he nods a Texan bandana.
The sign on the post room says SUMMER HOURS.
In this heat I can't imagine it ever not being summer.
As I go to enter the school house I notice water
on the front three steps, it looks as out of place as I feel.
I am grateful for the barely working elevator.
There is a red SUV alone in the parking lot.
What has it done to become so isolated?
* * *
GUIDED BY THE VOICE
I fold my legs into a pigeon.
Lift them like a marrionettist into a
happy baby. Not once does anyone
ask if the guy in a wheelchair in amongst
the lycra is an interloper. I unfurl my
reconstructed spine into a forward fold.
Head between knees as though in BRACE BRACE.
After the accident I almost slipped into
permanent corpse pose. Don't forget
to breathe. My legs became still but they
didn't stop talking. My brain stopped
listening. There is a voice still there, below
the line of no return, it's just softer, the energy
different. They want to be heard. With head bowed
I offer a barely audible apology. I am sorry
for all those years of resentment.
A different voice. Familiar. It guides through
eagle arms. Find what feels good
it says. A room reaches forward. Feet on mats
and one pair of wheels. Each one of us
lost in our own cloud of incense but
connected. Just do your best the voice says.
I take my hand behind my knee