Main Street in Sturgis

This poem jumped out at me in a recent issue of the literary journal, Southwest Review, thanks to its unlikely subject-matter — it’s the first poem I’ve ever run across about a motorcycle rally. But I love the way the poem rushes headlong into the strange, imaginative details of this part of America — we quickly find ourselves amid Vikings, pirates, and “ersatz Mayan bling.” I’ve quoted the first few stanzas here, and wish I could offer a link to the whole, kaleidoscopic poem:



                                    Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, South Dakota

More than magenta tattoos     that flicker action films
of flame-snorting dragons or sea serpents across once
muscled chests     shoulders     forearms     more than massive rhinestone

encrusted buckles     studding barrel-waisted denims
with ersatz Mayan bling     their headgear blazes longings
to return to a more fabled age     Viking helmets

some horned     some winged with stripes or lightning bolts     golden clasped
bandanas     starred midnight or blood red silks that might have
fringed the brow of Blackbeard or Long John Silver     and most

of all     the towering broad-brimmed stetsons     mesas on
the move     their shadows sweeping once-vast plains under wheeled
riders’ great horsepowered mounts     mythology of man

versus steer…

–John Reibetanz, from “At the Corner of Oil and Beef” 
Southwest Review (Volume 97, Number 4)

Photo Credit: Chris Heald, Creative Commons