Before the Wedding

The road was the kind of fine white sand
that will grab a motorcycle’s tires
and twist
throwing the rider to the ground like an animal
dragging down prey.
And the rice-fields on either side were brown and dry,
bleak
in the heat while we dozed in the shade,
or talked softly
as mangy chickens scratched for bugs in the piled straw.

Then the women came out of the house,
shining in the lowering light,
puffs of dust
rising from their heeled shoes
at each step.

We started the motorcycles –
a roar, a cough, a sputtering puttering –
and the women sat side-saddle behind
in bright gowns that glittered with sequins.

The sun turned orange and rested on the palm trees as we rode out,
minds stretched tight,
grips loose
on the handlebars as we rode over the sand
that had turned pink in the evening.
And the five bikes crested the rises in the road
like boats on the ocean,
our tiny
fleet
in
file.

Out in the fields
white cows ate the dried-up stalks,
and hundreds of swallows twisted in the air above them,
snapping at insects in their wheeling and banking
in the cool, liquid, dying of the light.

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