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





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

flagged down.


Bi-directional, you see, it

turns on one axis while entering

in the same turn a steep

reversing beyond.


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
Followed a jeep trail narrowing

To a skid trail, washboarded, overgrown
With generations of rough leaves

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

Disappearing into

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

sudden knowing

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.