Minor Displacement a Poem by Vin Maskell

Skinny Ribs 
Mum used to call me 
when I was a boy 
in the bath 
at the beach 
in the backyard all summer long 

Though skinny 
those ribs 
did their job 
year after year 
protecting my inside world –  
heart, lungs, kidneys  –  
from the outside world –  
the bruises and bumps of life 

Five decades I’ve been pedalling 
to school 
to uni 
to work 
to the shops 
to beaches 
Just moseying along 
No lycra, no flash bike 
Just the joy of moving 
Every day 
The sky above 
The road below 
The skinny ribs 
working their wonders 

Five decades 
Hardly a bruise or a bump 
Hardly a scratch 
Until, briefly distracted, 
Gazing a fraction too long 
at a stretch of beach 
I plough into a road sign 

Broken ribs 
The doctor at Emergency said 
Six weeks 
A suspension of sorts 

‘A fracturing 
of the posterolateral aspect 
of the left 4th rib’ 
the x-ray report said 
‘and the lateral aspect 
of the 5th left rib 
with minor displacement’ 

Ten days on 
I carefully walk to the shore 
Slowly peel off my T-shirt 
Stand waist deep in the water 
and think of Mum 
as the ribs soak up the sun 


 Vin Maskell is from Australia and runs the fabulous site and music-lit concert series Stereo Stories.

4 thoughts on “Minor Displacement a Poem by Vin Maskell”

  1. Great poem, but not such a great outcome. Minor comfort to know I’m not the only one who breaks bones coming off a bike.

  2. Exploring the dry British Columbia Central Interior on my bicycle, unskilled, I came down a gravel slope too steep, went over frontwards and landed on my backpack, unfortunately with just my camera in it, and cracked a couple of ribs. Camera was okay, sort of. Sixty-five years old.

  3. There was a young boy from Moggs Creek
    Near the beach he took too much of a peek
    His bike just kept going
    Without really knowing
    That it’s rider even had a posterolateral aspect that he should be taking much more care of…..and also, it is very difficult to put it in a poem because nothing rhymes with it!

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