Today, on Christmas Eve, we’re republishing the poem that first appeared on this day in 2016. That was the year CMG’s founding editor Rob Harris died, and his passing hit us hard. It was a comfort for all of us to think of him coming back to haunt our lead test rider Costa Mouzouris, and to imagine the gift he might bring at Christmas. – Ed.
Illustrations by Lesley Wimbush
TWAS THE NIGHT before Christmas, and all down the street
not a biker was stirring, since there was no heat.
Firewood was stacked by the chimneys with care
in the hope that some flames might bring warmth to the air.
This is awful, thought Costa. I must get out and ride,
but instead I’m stuck here with my girlfriend inside.
(Which isn’t a bad thing, one has to admit,
but little could change the poor state of his snit.)
Then all of a sudden,
he heard on the air,
the voice of a friend —
though he saw no one there:
“Mr. Mouzouris! You big girl’s blouse! Why aren’t you riding your motorcycle?”
“Rob, is that you?” He exclaimed with a start.
And the shock was so great that he squeaked out a fart.
“Yes, it’s me,” said the voice,
and its source became clear.
Rob shimmered to life
— he was holding a beer.
“When did a bit of cold weather ever stop you, anyway?”
“But this is Quebec. I need tires for my bike.
It’s slippery outside — I’d be best with a trike.”
“Just excuses. See what happens when I leave you for a while?”
“Okay, I’ll head out, but I could be arrested
for no winter tires — it’s a law that’s detested
by riders who like the cold weather that’s here,
in Quebec, in the snow, where we ride without fear.
“But Rob — I must ask
for the very first time:
How is it you’re here
and you speak without rhyme?”
“Oh, they told me I’d better come down and haunt you for a bit, because you’re turning soft. And poems are for wusses. C’mon mate — you still got that Honda Ascot? Is the oil 20/50? Is there even oil in your bike?”
“Of course, the weight’s fine,” said Costa, annoyed.
“Did you think for the winter I’d leave the pan void?
It’ll start in a moment and heat really quick.
But do you have a bike? Is your ride really trick?”
Rob put down his pint, and grinned his big grin.
He looked like a rider who knew he would win.
He moved to the window and opened the glass
and bellowed so loudly it rippled his ass:
“Come Honda! Come Triumph! Come Beemer and Hog!
Come take us away from this cold winter fog!
Come Yamaha, Kawi, Suzuki and Duke!
If I’m stuck here much longer, I think I will start rhyming my words!”
WHAT WAS THAT NOISE that now Costa could hear?
But the sound of eight bikes revving up, coming near,
and parking outside, no regard for the snow,
and blinking their lights — come on now, let’s go!
The ice started melting, the wind blew more warm,
the asphalt was dry and the bikes took one form
of a racer, a chopper, a retro, a Wing.
“Whatever you want, mate — let’s make this thing sing!”
Costa slung his leg over and kicked up the stand,
pushed on the starter with a reach of his hand.
“What now is this magic?” he asked of his friend,
“that’s designed in my mind and you’ve had Heaven send?”
“It’s whatever you want it to be. There’s no winter in motorcycle Heaven, so I thought I’d bring you down a taste. Get you out of your funk. I’ll ride your old piece of shite if you don’t mind.”
The bike pulled away with never a care
and Costa felt warmth on his face, in his hair.
He sped down the street, his heart surging with pride
as his friend, on the Ascot, rode quickly beside.
But ahead in the darkness, he saw a cop cruiser.
“That bugger will book me! He’ll call me a loser
for not having tires allowed in the snow!
To Montreal jail, I surely will go!”
“Nah — let me take care of this, mate.”
And Costa sped past the Montreal cop.
There was never a reason to slow or to stop,
for the officer only could see a brief blur.
A whisper of magic. The hint of a purr.
ALL NIGHT COSTA RODE in the warm winter air,
taking corners much faster than ever he’d dare.
Popping wheels, drifting curves, revving right to the top,
until the dawn broke and it came time to stop.
He parked by his home and dismounted the bike.
Rubbing his eyes, he said “Now I’d like
you to come in and tell me of Heaven and such…”
But the air was now chill. The snow cold to the touch.
The bike was no more. Rob’s ghost too was gone.
Did that really happen? Was it just a con?
But he heard from his Ascot, the sound of soft ticking –
the engine was cooling, from taking a licking.
And from up in the clouds, a call shouted with might:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, winter’s shite!”