Carolyn Gammon and her partner are leaving their flat on Kreuzberg Street for a more accessible one.

Is there anything that says freedom better than a bicycle ride in summer? Imagine losing that freedom, and what can replace it. Below Carolyn Gammon shares her poem, “The Little Cyclist.” Gammon lives in Berlin with her partner, Katharina Oguntoye, who recently received the German Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) for her life’s work with the Black, POC and LGBTQI communities, and who now needs a set of wheels to get around. In fact, they have organized a funding campaign to make their next dwelling wheelchair accessible (see below).
“The Little Cyclist” is from the collection of poems about Gammon’s mother, who had dementia, On Her Own Terms: Poems about Memory Loss and Living Life to the Fullest, Harbour Publishing, paperback, 2021.

The Little Cyclist

A lifelong cyclist
Mum never lost the thrill
Spiffy that last ride
sunset orange jacket
racing-stripes helmet
feet in rat traps like a pro

The next home
I brought her a little cyclist
eight inches high
With a flick of a switch
he pedalled away
legs pumping, lights flashing
along the waxed buffed corridors

Mum loved the little cyclist
following in her wheelchair
wherever he went
she never passed 
politely let him lead the way
Homecare workers
smiled to see the little cyclist
round a corner, knowing Frances 
would be on his heels

One time we all travelled together
the little cyclist, Mum and I
talking about road trips with Kay
Magdalen Islands, Rocher Percé
waterproof panniers packed with snacks
“PEI is more hilly than I thought!”
“A hard day’s journey”

The little cyclist hit a bump and fell
Must have a flat, we said
I righted him and on we went
corridor after corridor
dining room pond aquarium
nurses’ station, civilization
Wheeled and gabbed heart to heart
waved at passersby
until at last the little cyclist headed home

Home, home
to the room with photos of Frances and family
“Look! That’s me!”
delighted to be back

That evening
Mum asked me to write a letter for her
“Dear Father, I’ve been away on a trip
I know I promised not to be gone long
Carolyn is such a good companion”

The little cyclist
on his kickstand within view
Frances speaks of roads she’s travelled

Who’s to say
we’re not relaxing after fifty K
That Frances had not been to Rocher Percé
that day?

            I am not exactly kicking up my heels,
            but I am moving them along the floor.

—Carolyn Gammon, On Her Own Terms: Poems about Memory Loss and Living Life to the Fullest, Harbour Publishing, paperback, 2021, p. 60.

Further

  • In “Her Heart Still Beats in New Brunswick“, Gabriella Goliger describes Gammon’s collection, On Her Own Terms, as “a series of narrative poems that record the journey of memory loss, both the painful experiences and prejudices encountered, but also the wonderfully positive moments and triumphs.” (3 Oct. 2019)
  • Gammon interview on The Commentary.
  • Katharina Oguntoye — Help for a Community Hero.

Header photo of Berlin bicycles by Martin Riese.

Posted by Debra Martens

author, editor

One Comment

  1. Gabriella Goliger June 16, 2022 at 14:41

    Thank you for this great post and for including mention of Carolyn Gammon’s campaign to raise money for an accessible flat for Katharina Oguntoye and herself. I met them both recently and can attest to both the dire need and how deserving they are because of their many years of selfless community service.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.