Three Poems by Mark Levine
COMPANY EDITIONS is an independent publisher of poetry and visual art. The journal, Company, was founded in 2013 and is published three or four times per year. We will also be publishing chapbooks beginning in late 2016. Company Editions is based in Athens, GA, Iowa City, IA, and Cambridge, MA. You can contact the editors by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I see a man moving
on a bicycle, I wish to
be on a bicycle, myself.
But my machine, simplicity
itself, is ailing and cannot be
Bi-directional, you see, it
turns on one axis while entering
in the same turn a steep
Or strafing sideways, it catches
its rib in a furrow, bucking twice
then discharging its
When I see a man seated in correct
formation on an uninviting wedge atop
an irregular triangle
of coarsely sutured steel tube,
my sight moves with him
towards the dusky pollen-choked periphery
while my body, rider, stays put.
I do not stray from my stall, nor may I rest
among the bent and ill-shaped
brackets, riddles of transmission,
tapering time-worn steering apparatus.
For despite my efforts to constrain
the front-facing wheel’s vaguely
warped forward rotation
(more out of true than not)
my bicycle is removing
its man from sight.
I would have thought I would have been
a bicyclist among men,
climbing on in a leaping start
and heaving along sodden banks
into the shallow swift-flowing stream,
nearly perfectly weightless, fully
at liberty to get on with my
hesitating ride, even in the long years
I had no bicycle, even
when my legs and other elements
were most curbed.
And as I rode,
stupid infant pleasure returned me
to my body’s bicycle;
and I rode until pain made
my bicycle invisible.
I would use these words but for
Once there was something inside me
A pebble, part of one
White beam spilling
Headlong through the darkening
Waterfall, where was I
Scrambling up the loose flinty scree
Forced an opening through the brush
To a skid trail, washboarded,
To a ghost trail
A hunter might have cut
Tracking a particular bloodied
Many-pointed buck up the scarp
Past the hunter’s turnaround
Past the discarded animal
God knows to the source
Muddy unreflective trickle wanting
To leave this world
I mean the busted spigot
In the room beyond.
I mean the light I licked up
To get to the ferny cloud-cracked pool
Now look at my mirror.
I’m an old bugger in a potted grove
While the sun allows it
Before the sun prohibits it
Water way, where are you
Fuck. Nothing tells me what to do
Except the feeder tells me to
Put the little spoon in and chew
And I’ve lost the will to.
So it rests there, wanting swallowing,
Yet I would not want it,
Yet still I want it if it will have me
Pinned to a painted rock
A goldfinch wings past
The great cascade
I wade in
And wash without help
In the spring-fed cold
And the flow of it
Rubs me away.
That was a long one. I’ll keep this one short.
I’ll go one further. I’ll quicken this
to a streaking crescent of side-swiping pain
that will have barely happened.
By the time you have lowered
yourself into the scalding
bath and been brazed by
this will be done.
Then what? Longing?
Silence? What is silence?
—Then comes the long
hobble home with no tracking tool
nothing but a regimen of tedious lifts and bends
roll overs and hours spent face up
examining the galloping shapes of clouds.
Re-entry goes on long and slow
stretching time to kill it. What were we
doing here all along anyway
supporting life? Surely there were
other planets for us—be reasonable, there
are—where we can take care of each other
in some version of an instant then
thankfully flame out.
Mark Levine is the author of four books of poetry: Debt (1993), Enola Gay (2000), The Wilds (2006), and Travels of Marco (2016). His poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies, including American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (2007) and American Hybrid (2009), among others. Hs is also the author of a book of nonfiction. He has written for magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, Outside, the New Yorker, and Bicycling magazine and is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. An associate professor of poetry at the University of Iowa, Levine has taught in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop since 1999.