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Six New Poems by Kate Johnson AKA Chopper Kate chopprkate@yahoo.com


A Graybeard’s tale

"Believe me or not, but I'll swear it's true...
what I'm about to relate, I will tell very few."
the graybeard spoke from beside the flames
The day's ride behind , it was time for some games.
Elbows jabbed at leathered ribs, hushed, the bikers settled in
anticipating the tale about to begin.
It was late in the fall of '88, riding the mountains of Tennessee state,
Now I've always been the adventuresome type, off the beaten path, avoiding the hype. unexpected delays and a pan head's cantankerous ways, had cost me what daylight was left.
Then the fog rolled in, thick and gray as an elephant's skin.
The road dipped and turned, switch backed and full of rubble;
it didn't take a genius like me to figure there would be trouble.
I had an ache in my back and a pain in my wrist, the knot in my neck felt as big as a fist, when like a beacon ahead I saw the neon glow, and like a moth to a flame I let myself go.
My belly growled like a cave full of bears outta hibernation, with thoughts of biscuits with red eye gravy and a cold libation.
A weather beaten sign read, Fred's Bait, Bar and Grill from the side of the shanty alongside the hill. I couldn't recall previous mention of it at any of my stops at the other local mom and pop shops.
I parked the old pan and gave thanks to the lord for guiding me here and the room and board I was about to receive.
Barely in the door, I was stopped in my track by a hound from hell with a hackled back
The ugliest, sorriest looking mountain cur you had ever seen, all bone and gristle with some black and tan fur between. I almost decided to turn and leave, when a voice hollered out a welcome reprieve
"Don't mind him, he don't bite too hard...ain't got many teeth. Come on in, don't be scar'd" I eased up to the bar and sat down, keeping one eye on the dog and a foot on the ground ready to move fast if the need be.
"We don't get many strangers up here no more" Said the man I presumed to be Fred.
Pale, tall and thin, with dark eyes that sunk in and a shock of red hair that stood straight off his head
He reminded me of a matchstick that never lit, finally the dog relaxed his guard and sauntered out the door to sit
keeping watch on the pan.
With a lopsided grin he pulled up a jug, grabbed a glass and poured us a slug.
it tasted like fire and burned my empty belly, made my eyes water and my knees feel like jelly. "I'll have another!" I said with a grin, he pulled up a stool and poured two more again.
I was feeling the warm satisfaction right down to my toes, when Fred stood up and hollered "ROSE!"
Out from the kitchen came the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, wiping her hands on her apron to clean. "Howdy stranger" she said and I struggled to rise pulling my cap off my head.
"Good evening Ma'am" I said finding some manners, my eyes running over her like one of those airport scanners. When Fred spoke up and and broke the mood, "Girl, quit yer gawkin' and get this feller some food!"
Behind his back she stuck her tongue out, winking at me as she turned about; to get me something to eat. Now I have to say I hated like hell to see her go, but watching her exit was quite a treat.
"She's a handful that one, always tryin' to run away with every passerby up this way!" he confessed then drank more 'shine.
He pulled a shotgun from under the bar, "and if it happens again, she won't get far."
The message was received loud and clear.
I ate those beans and hamhocks, with hot cornbread, drinking out of that jug until I saw two of Fred. He steered me to a cot in the back of the shack, too drunk to undress I fell into the sack snoring like a buzz saw.
Now I am not sure of the hour that I was awoken, by a voice in my ear and a finger pokin' me hard in the ribcage. Damned if it wasn't that beautiful Rose, hair all down and in her night clothes, smiling at me in a wicked like way.
The thought of that shotgun flickered by and she saw the nervous look in my eye, "He's fast asleep, he'll never wake up"
She had me convinced and at her disposal, already in love and making a proposal, I must have been under a spell! On the porch before dawn's light, she was packed and ready for flight on the back of the old panhead with me.
My head was starting to throb as the reality was setting in, and I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go again. "Hell yes!" her answer loud like a bullwhip's crack, and every hair on my neck stood up when I heard the shotgun jack. I thought I had met my end. Yelling and cussing, he was fit to be tied. While she ran into the woods looking to hide, I took the opportunity to make my escape, jumping onto my scoot riding down that mountain faster than a striped ass ape.
On the other side later that morn, I stopped for a rest feeling haggard and worn and wondering if it had even happened at all. I asked a man there if he could recall of a place up the hill called Fred's Bait, Bar and Grill.
He asked me "Why?"
So ... I related most of my tale, watching as he turned deathly pale and uncomfortable, like his skivvies were three sizes too small.
After awhile he spoke about Fred , Rose and the ugly dog, seems that place had burned to the ground, their bodies in the charred remains found
exactly 10 years ago last night.
Believe me if you want, but I'll swear it's true...

Calamity Jane Rides a Shovel

"Why don't ya just ride the fucker!"
she hollered to the driver as she hung over the side
of the Possum Lodge,
a man in a truck went by hauling his ride.
Her hair was plain Jane brown ,
past her shoulders hanging down.
Red western shirt and black leather vest,
blue jeans and belt they were her biker best.
"Four shovel riders here and I met three last night"
she bragged from her non stop lip,
she cackled loudly at some private joke
taking a deep drag off her Marlboro, again she spoke,
I eavesdropped as she reminded her friend,
"... ya don't wanna carry nothin' into Kansas 'cuz
the jails there suck!
"PUSSY! she hollered at another truck.
a few more whistles, hoots and calls,
She then stated as fact, “ first time here not carrying at least 3 eight balls".
Loud and brassy, rough and sassy,
a hellcat lady trucker who yelled at the fucker too afraid to ride.
A shovel queen bitch who rides it here and home with pride.
Today feelin' no pain, this modern day Calamity Jane.


The basket case

How long had the old shovel sat quiet under that tarp two years, maybe three ?
he did his best to deny it ... like the void where his heart used to be.
every night, pouring it full of beer chasing her memories with whiskey.

One morning he woke, hung over , flat ass broke.
Looking up from the bottom, and out through the bars.
His eyes more clear , clouds parted, he saw the stars
he had missed all those wasted nights.

The climb wasn't easy , slipping now and again.
the tremor not quite gone from his head and hands.
Pulling back the tarp, exposing the machine,
that shovel and her, they had been his dreams.
Unsure, unsteady, full of frustration ,questions and searches,
he began their transformation.

Time rolls by like a bolt that drops, memories fade, heartaches stop
he worked when he could. and at times when he shouldn't.
Falling asleep on the floor, he faced the door,
the one she walked out of his life.

He lay down his tools ,he defied the odds, he broke the rules.
there were times he didn't think he could finish.
Nothing on earth could diminish that job well done.
Blinking against the sun
they rolled back into the world.

He looked to the sky where they said god resides,
and whispered a biker's prayer.
He kicked it, kicked it ,then kicked it some more.
and from his brow , sweat did pour.
like a demon from hell the engine roared!
That broken grin said it all as his spirit soared.
A couple of basket cases on the road once more.

The Dream

the other night I dreamt I died and set upon one final ride
down a dark and fearful road. The pull of unseen hands,
as I rolled past the unfamiliar lands tore at me like a cold harvest wind.
my gaze held fast to the distant light that never passed ,always remaining afar.
until a great desert rose before me illuminated, the sandscape white ,
bathed in soft light by a brilliant diamond star.
There the road forked, which way to go? one lane was red, the other black
behind me was nothing, there was no turning back. I noticed a roadhouse by the way
ramshackle, the neon flashed a garish red.
Unsure if I wanted to stop, but with no will of my own, I felt the bike slow and the kickstand drop.

resignation replaced doubt and weariness bone. My boot heels rang too loud, wooden and hollow across the floor of the room in the dusty sand ,a trail of other steps I tried to follow. They disappeared as they were swept clean by broom and hand unseen
I chose a seat, the only one available and watched as an old woman rose from the table where she had sat playing solitaire. She had the look of antique leather,
a snowy avalanche her hair, I felt the ache of every step, as she shuffled down the bar, the pain she bore without complaint, the agony of every scar she wore across her weathered skin.
Her gaze met mine, steady and clear with eyes as blue as the summer sky.
I felt shame for the way I must appear ,and before I could ask her Why?
she began..."Child you are lost? Well your not alone, many have passed this way
trying to find their way home."

I could barely look her in the face ,my life she could read, I was a disgrace.
Selfish material things had mattered, now my life before me scattered
like a movie across the walls before us.
my eyes ran over salty tears making mud of the dust .Her way of judgment was swift and just, and as I was about to leave, she stopped me fast with her hand on my sleeve. "You ride isn't done quite yet"

As she walked me to the door, across the now clean floor, my spirit had never felt such peace. There remained now only the road of red, I had a full tank and a clear head. As I turned to thank her for what she had done, nothing remained save for me and the sun.

It was just a dream I said when I awoke, it seemed so real, the words she had spoke.
I came to realize on that day, the chance I was given to change my way.
When again comes the day to look upon that ancient face ; I won't be filled with doubt or disgrace.
The road to take will be clearly marked on the final ride that I embark.

The Original Biker Babes

Where are you now ladies of mystery?
Captive images of black and white
Such small pieces of history
In each old photograph,
Who were you and how did you travel along life’s path?
On those two wheeled machines?
Sitting astride or proudly posed bedside,
Your pretty heads chock full of dreams,
With a wild heart, set far above and apart,
From the rest of the world.
Highway angels of the past
The memories of your ride will last

Taking Back a Life
(kevin's story)

Flesh, blood and bone,
steel, leather and chrome,
grating, grinding, breaking...
He'd never forget that sound
or the turn his life was taking
on that day "she" saved his life.
Catching him, like a highway angel made of steel,
shiny side down, where no biker should ever be
the man and machine, sliding,
60 feet across the slab, a bad dream,
So surreal, until agony screams
through the adrenalin rush
and white hot pain is all you feel.
Thoughts pop and flash, like sunlight flickering through leaves.
A rapid gush of recollection
too damn many will come to know.
Weeks of rehabilitation,
his father held his hand and prays
"Save my son, spare his pain, take me lord,
just let him live to ride again!"
The road to recovery is long.
The scars they lay so deep,
haunting his mind, disturbing his sleep.
He can't ignore the call from within,
"Get back on or call it quits!"
Standing beside her now, his highway angel, mended too.
Ready to run, she's good as new.
Tentative, his hand tremors at the touch of the throttle,
Like the hand of a drunk denied his bottle.
Sitting on that seat again after so long,
So familiar it makes him cry.
This soul needs to mend and a man needs to fly
the only way he knows how.
To live to ride on and away from memories of that day,
"she" saved his life.

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