By William Stafford
To many people, young men in particular, a motorcycle represents the rebellious, independent freedom parental authorities do not wish them to have. “Fifteen” shows the agony of a boy so eager to have freedoms afforded to a sixteen year old that he is tempted to ride the crashed motorcycle. But, some how he is able to resist, and do the more adult thing. Connecting the bike to its owner.
The temptation starts with the motorcycle just sitting in the tall grass with no owner in site. The fifteen year old boy is all alone with a mans motorcycle right beside him. “I admired all that pulsing gleam, the shiny flanks, the demure headlights fringed where it lay, I led it gently to the road and stay there with that companion, ready and friendly.” with the way the boy describes the motorcycle it almost sounds like he is with a woman or a horse and wanting to take them out.
The temptation grows bigger and stronger. When he dreams about taking the motorcycle to the road and going over hills. “On the bridge we indulged a forward feeling” is a different way of saying that the child is now a man. A bridge from childhood to adulthood. The fifteen year old stops day dreaming of freedom. When he decides to go do the responsible thing. Looking for the owner.
He went back in the tall grass and found the owner of the motorcycle. When the boy found the owner just waking up. He helped the owner to his motorcycle “he ran his hand over it, called me a good man, roared away.” The boy just stood there still fifteen and just learned responsibility, and how to be more of an adult.
Many fifteen year olds have something similar happen to them. It might have been like what happened to this boy it might have been a little less intimidating then what happened, but it could have been even bigger. Most probably wouldn’t do what the fifteen year old had to do. But, many...