My girlfriend and I on bicycles in foggy dusk
          gratefully coasted downhill to Southampton docks
          to take the ferry to France.
 
          Week two of a three-month trip
          so we still photographed everything:
          us, waiting. Not married yet, so still
          we photographed everything. Us.
 
          Waiting. Ready to board
          but the ferrymen went on strike.
          All the cars in the long line
          groaned, sighed, and turned around.
 
          We on bicycles and four others on foot
          stood deserted at the oily edge of  sea.
 
          *
 
          They loaded us in a van,
          wedging our bikes in back, and drove
          to Dover where we caught the last dark
          un-struck ferry across the channel.
 
          In Calais, another van met us,
          the driver, reluctant refugee from dreamland,
          jammed us in again. We slumped
          against strangers and each other
          in the even tinier van.
 
          The plan: travel the summer
          then marriage in the fall. The bold lines
          of that map obscured all detours.
 
          *
 
          The driver dumped us in La Havre
          on an empty street in the center of town.
          4 a.m. Forced to leave, we tumbled out.
          Our sad six wandered the nothing
          of those silent streets.
 
          *
 
          Gambling is not a virtue, nor is not playing
          at all. Empty casino streets, no dealer, no one
          to call. Darkness hissed through our bones.
          We walked our bikes behind the others
          till we found a small hotel, its dim-lit lobby
          unlocked, and parked ourselves on two
          grim couches to wait for light.
 
          *
 
          Light does not always come
          and certainly does not always stay.
          If that sounds stupid, stay up all night
          and call me in the morning.
 
          Has God said too much, or not enough?
          Shouldn’t the Bible still be going on?
 
          At dawn we rode off on bent rims
          till we found a man who knew a man
          who trued our wheels
          in a garage off an alley.
 
          We staked our tent on the edge
          of a campground lined with empty trailers.
          Early in the season, June 6, my birthday,
          My girlfriend had stashed candles.
          She stuck them in a tart,
          and I wished.
 
          *
 
          Destination is a wet rag wrung out, hung out
          to dry only to get rained on.
          We cycled on straight, narrow roads
          till the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel
          appeared through mist
 
          like a cartoon paradise or villain’s tower, depending
          on the quality of light piercing the cynical fog.
          It grew larger as we approached
          though roadside cows were unperturbed.
 
          We had timed one thing right:
          we walked across the narrow bridge
          and back before the tide made it an island
 
          We were getting married. She had purchased
          an expensive dress. We were foolish with love
          and the future. To connect to land, then
          let the water surround us again.
          We rolled up our pant legs and escaped.
          I’ve never given a sermon, but it would be that:
          Be separate. Be connected.
          Make money off the tourists.
 
          *
 
          We road fifteen hundred more miles
          to Zagreb to meet her father’s family
          who gave us gifts too large for our panniers.
 
          But in Mont St. Michel, we took pictures
          of the water rising, cutting us off
          from our other lives.
 
          We got back on the bikes and rode off,
          though we looked back
          frequently, though we faced a future
          where we could not count on
          boats, nor their posted timetables.
 
 
 
 
 
JIM DANIELS‘ new book, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013. His poem “Factory Love” is displayed on the roof of a race car. A native of Detroit, Daniels teaches at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.