Fine Ruin (Bicycles in Munich)


What happens

To the bicycles in Munich;

The ones punctuating the cobblestone paths –

Locked to the bike racks, lampposts, street signs

In sun, rain, sleet, snow, heat

Wheels bent into parentheses,

Or missing entirely,

Or outwardly fine,

Frames rusted, scratched, or gleaming,


Forgotten about entirely

locked up and misremembered

rented and abandoned at the stair skirting of the Hauptbahnhof

Or maybe the rider shortly after the penultimate click of the lock

Struck by a bus or a train or a taxi,

felled by a quietly faulty heart ,

pierced by a knife in a lovers’ quarrel,

The chained bicycle a marker, a memo, a clue, the very last thing before.

What happens to them?

Does the orderly Munich Municipality

Sweep through with lock breakers, breaking free

Those bikes that have been stationary for a week, a month, a year –

Off to auction, to the junkyard, to repair shops, to nowhere?

Or do they just silently break down, unclaimed

As the seasons ebb and flow

and the years pile up against the stones, unswept

while other bikes come and go, come and go;

do they just

Fade, fade against the dying of the light?


In Munich for Oktoberfest,

I am curious to see whether I still am who

I thought I was, even though I am

Halfway to 90,

(A new post to which to chain myself);

But meanwhile

My youth wandered off,

Having forgotten about me ;

Though I am if not beautiful, willowy, tall, then

Handsome enough,

And strong,

Enough for some fine young German men

And men from around the world

to stop; and if they stop then perhaps

I catch them with my cleverness,

And my practiced nonchalance,

Especially if it is dark

And especially if they are



Surely, my youth cannot leave me here

with these adamantine silver chains,

But it does, and what’s more walks away without

A backwards glance

With its hair untouched by gray

And heart uncrushed by the unknowable, menacing future,

And mind and memory with more room to go than has gone before


Almost don’t begrudge it but

the cold metal chain lies close and heavy and loose,

like apathy or an afterthought

And I feel myself bending ,

And the slow, certain spread of rust

Like fine lace, some predatory and fibrous ossification,

choking algae on a placid lake,

whispers of ruin when the glass is half full

And I know that no one will come by to break the locks,

And I know what happens to us all.

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