Monday, July 31, 2017



(Against September 11, 2001)

by Brendan Galvin

He breezed past me on a bike so thin
it looked bulletproof, another spandex
superhero, I thought, until he came back
slowly, sagging and loud, both hands
on the grips, talking to nobody
on this road given over to birdsong.
Both towers? He was almost screaming now.
Both? Another vacationer losing
his mind at his leisure, until I saw
the headphone clamped to his helmet.

Monday, July 3, 2017

From "Song For My Father"

(Sometimes you could be)

by Yusef Komunyakaa

Sometimes you could be
That man on a red bicycle,
With me on the handlebars,
Just rolling along a country road
On the edge of July, honeysuckle
Lit with mosquito hawks.
We rode from under the shady
Overhang, back into sunlight.
The day bounced off car hoods
As the heat & stinking exhaust
Brushed against us like a dragon's
Roar, nudging the bike with a tremor,
But you steered us through the flowering
Dogwood like a thread of blood.

This is one stanza of a longer poem about his father, and their complicated relationship. The whole thing is here and well worth reading. The poem makes me realize that for nearly all of us, learning to ride and our earliest bicycle experiences are also crucial Father experiences and among the lessons we learn in what a father is.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Bicycle Leaning Up Against the Wall

I'm discovering bicycles at the edge of the picture. Bicycles among the collection of props, not even in focus enough to be minor characters, nearly glanced over. But if it's true that poetry is language distilled to what is essential, and the bicycle made the cut, then its evocative presence speaks of intent. Even at rest, the bicycle is symbol.
Here are two poems where the bicycle is metaphor for what remains when the distillation is complete.

Self-Portrait as the Bootblack in Daguerre's Boulevard du Temple

by Robin Coste Lewis

(An erasure of Grant Allen's Recalled to Life)

I don't believe
I thought

or gave names
in any known language

I spoke 
of myself always

in the third person.
What led up to it,

I hadn't the faintest idea.
I only knew the Event

itself took place. Constant
discrepancies. To throw them

off, I laughed,
talked--all games

and amusements--to escape
from the burden of my own

internal history.
But I was there

trying for once
to see you,

longed so
to see you.

I might meet you
in the street:

a bicycle leaning
up against the wall

by the window. Rendered
laws of my country

played before my face.
Historical, two-souled,

forgotten, unknown
freaks of memory.

The matter of debts,
the violent death

of a near relation,
and all landing

at the faintest conception.
Dark. Blue. And then.

All I can remember
is when I saw you.

It was you
or anyone else.

The shot
seemed to end

all. It belongs
to the new world:

the Present
all entangled, unable

to move. Everything 
turned round

and looked
at you.

Robin Coste Lewis won the National Book Award for poetry in 2015 for her book Voyage of the Sable Venus. Below is Daguerre's photograph referenced in the title. It dates from 1838 and is believed to be the first photograph that captures the image of a person.


by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye,
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted 
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Biking To The George Washington Bridge

by Alicia Ostriker

It sweeps away depression and today
you can’t tell the heaped pin-white
cherry blossoms abloom along
Riverside Drive from the clouds above
it is all kerfluffle, all moisture and light and so
into the wind I go
past Riverside Church and the Fairway
Market, past the water treatment plant
and in the dusky triangle below
a hulk of rusted railroad bed
a single hooded boy is shooting hoops

It’s ten minutes from here to the giant bridge
men’s engineering astride the sky heroic
an animal roar of motors on it
the little red lighthouse at its foot
big brother befriending little brother
in the famous children’s story
eight minutes back with the wind behind me
passing the boy there alone shooting
his hoops in the gloom

A neighborhood committee
must have said that space
should be used for something recreational
a mayor’s aide must have said okay
so they put up basketball and handball courts
and if it were a painting or a photo
you would call it American loneliness

This was the Poem-a-Day for January 2, 2017, hosted by
About the poem, the author said this:
“Biking to the bridge is one of my favorite activities since becoming a permanent New York City resident for the first time since I was eighteen. The bike path has the Hudson River on one side, traffic on the other, and I can do the ride in an hour door to door.  If the poem captures both the energy of the city and the sorrow and loneliness threading through it, I’ll be satisfied.”