A Gift that’s not a Gift

Hazel Hall

My husband is on the exercise bike
unwanted by its previous owner, given
with purposeful good riddance.
An elephant left from another past
yet treasured by my love. He's clocking off
more notches than the weather forecast
or the latest batch of Covid numbers.
Keeping fit in days of isolation,
he's pedalling away those draping cobwebs
needing our attention. Scattered papers
on the desk. Unread volumes on the shelves
and rumbles of an empty train outside
like thunder―
when the sky becomes the lyrebird of disquiet.
An ingenious contraption
for body-mind connection is assembled
near the handle grips.
The music stand that holds his phones and tablet
brings smiles of amusement from friends
and admiration for resourcefulness― a further use
given to this gift that's not a gift.
My husband is pedalling faster and faster.
His eyes are on that Facebook Page
graced by Billy Collins,
as if impossible to leave
poems that for now, erase disaster.
I wait with impatience.
My turn won't start till Billy's final cadence.

Contextual Essay: Doctors tell us that fresh air and exercise is essential for a healthy mind. Recently storms and floods swept across our state, drowning daily walks and augmenting the misery of COVID.  Cast off by its previous owner, I never appreciated the exercise bike in our study. It was always a nuisance and a dust catcher for me. I was surprised when my husband set it up to serve a dual purpose, never dreaming that I’d be able to pedal away the continuing winter gloom while travelling into Billy’s living room. Sometimes gratitude takes a while to settle in.

Hazel Hall is a widely published Canberra poet and musicologist. Recent collections include Step By Step: Tai Chi Meditations (Picaro Poets 2018), Moonlight over the Siding (Interactive Press 2019), Severed Web (Picaro Poets 2020) and a verse play for radio Please Add Your Signature and Date it Here (Litoria Press 2021). Hazel’s sonnet collection A Hint of Rosemary is forthcoming. When Covid safe she coordinates Poetry at Manning Clark House in Canberra, A.C.T.



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