By Michael Donaghy 1954–2004 Michael Donaghy
Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

Michael Donaghy, “Machines” from Dances Learned Last Night: Poems 1975-1995. Copyright © 2000 by Michael Donaghy. Reprinted with the permission of Macmillan.

Source: Poetry (September 1988).


This poem originally appeared in the September 1988 issue of Poetry magazine

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September 1988
 Michael  Donaghy


Donaghy was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents and grew up in the Bronx. After earning a BA from Fordham University and an MA from the University of Chicago, he moved to London in 1985. In England he won an Arts Council Writers Award and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; his work was recognized with the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the Whitbread Prize. In addition to writing and teaching, he played . . .

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Poems by Michael Donaghy

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SUBJECT Music, Arts & Sciences, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities


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