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The Bikers at Starbucks
Joseph Soldati


They look more like Willie Nelsons than Che Gueveras.
Yet their carefully unkempt beards and combed pony tails
are as authentic as the ear rings, head scarves, dark glasses, and boots.
Most have stripped off their leather jackets
to reveal arms gilt black and blue with tattoos.
But drinking double-shot skinny decaf mocha lattes?
When summer comes will they switch to Frappuccinos®,
lick the frosted foam from straws, and sigh, yuppily, in the sun?

A genuine Hell's Angel wouldn't even take off his helmet,
would order a cup of unground Guatemala, chew the beans
and spit the bitter leavings on the sidewalk—
all the time keeping one hand in the rear pocket of his mama's jeans,
while his huge hog, askant and sputtering on the same sidewalk,
threatens passersby like a ravenous beast.

Starbucks' Sunday Bikers align their bikes
like icons on display, facing outward from the curb.
We thrill at the chrome glistening brighter than scalpels,
at the scarlets, blues, greens, yellows, and purples
more radiant than the tiles on a Thai temple:
Machine as art and religion,
and we suspect the Bikers have stayed up all night cleaning
and polishing every part and pipe for our adoration.

Still, those shining Suzukis, Yamahas, Harleys
entice us to pleasures beyond those complacencies of the peignoir
and the yawning stretch that connects a Sunday morning with its
When the Bikers start their engines all roar and freedom—
a sound that softens men and hardens women—
then file up the avenue like a bright segmented dragon
breathing fire and defiance, we long to ride with them,
free from a Sunday of whatever responsibilities
got us no closer to God than we were last night,
into a paradise of metallic blue skies
with clouds the color of steamed cream atop a cappuccino.


From Apocalypse Clam (Finishing Line Press, 2006).
Used with the author's permission.



Joseph Soldati (1939 - 2019) was born in New Hampshire, grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, attended school in California and Washington, then settled in Oregon. An English professor at Western Oregon University for 28 years, he was the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships, along with several other grants and awards. Widely published in both poetry journals and academic publications, Joseph was the author of a scholarly book on Gothic literature and six collections of poetry. He enjoyed reading, traveling, cooking, art, music, baseball, and trains.


Post New Comment:
Before I read it I didn't think I would like this poem but I loved it! So different.
Posted 03/19/2015 09:18 AM
I loved it! And we've all seen them, especially here in Milwaukee where they descend in hordes for the Harley anniversaries. This poem captures the essence of them.
Posted 03/19/2015 07:21 AM
I love the subtle echoes of one of my favorite poems--Wallace Stevens' Sunday Morning (I think 'complacencies of the peignoir' is a direct quote).. Well done.
Posted 03/18/2015 11:58 PM

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