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Photo of Kimberly Burnham, PhD

Red, White, Blue, and Yellow

By Kimberly Burnham, PhD
West Hartford, CT

A poem by Kimberly Burnham, PhD, a 56-year-old lesbian who bicycled 3000+ miles across America on the 2013 Hazon Cross USA. Winner of the 2013 SAGE Story Contest.

Many things are frightening 
on a Cross USA bicycle ride
a truck may come within inches
seeming for a moment not to see me 
or a car that doesn't want to share 
the road full of cracks and pot holes
visibility equals life
so does vigilance

Awareness and attention keep me alive
on this journey
even so I am scraped up from a fall
my attention lapsed 
as I crossed a railroad track.
my concentration, my focus on the journey
may wander from time to time
but me, I am not hard to see
in my red, white, and blue Hazon jersey
mile after mile from Seattle to Washington, DC

People can see who I am 
and I wonder about discrimination
our "People of the Bike" jerseys 
clearly marking us as Jews 
we ride through rural America, 
where white church steeples dot the landscape
conservative Christian billboards scream messages
then across the Mississippi 
into the diversity of the densely populated East.

Completely white my hair peaks out 
from under my bicycle helmet
I wondered if I might die 
before my 56th birthday in Minnesota
at the half way mark across America.
looking at me anyone can see 
the years of experience before this ride

Experiences in communities, 
in the world,
in America teach me
how to create a sense of safety
to live passionately
find community
visibility equals life
waves of emotion 
as my attention flows to those around me
finding the common ground
sharing the road along the way

My bicycle marked with symbols
my choice, a rainbow flag
a blue square with parallel yellow rectangles
the equality sign of the Human Rights Campaign
I am riding out in rural America
Okay, I'll give you I am a little scared
it's a little daunting to think
I might be the target of hate
but proud of my choices
and this country in which
I can choose whom to love
and wear a giant yellow and blue equals sign
on my back knowing some people will recognize 
I am a lesbian

The ones that don't know 
the symbols on my sleeve
are not part of my community
my chosen family
still they are welcome to join me
on the crossing as I look 
for how we can connect 
and be seen together because
visibility equals life.

SAGE Story

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