Manhattan is one of the great places in the world to ride a bicycle and for instance tonight it was Myra’s birthday so she and Chana, her girlfriend, and I rode to Film Forum and then to the East Village for bubble tea. It was very social and just beautiful out tonight. But sometimes a bicycle is an interruption and you ride it somewhere to meet someone

but afterwards do you want to walk with them with your bike in crowded weekend sidewalks stopping and starting and just having an extra body along when you want to feel intimate. It’s a decision you weigh – whether to leave your bike in Chelsea or Chinatown or on 10th St. all night or not. There are seasons in bike thievery – entire decades, the 80s for instance when to own a bike was to be endlessly buying a new one. And moral questions about whether it was okay to buy a hot bike when you had lost so many. Weren’t you just buying your own bike back after all so THAT’S okay, right? It’s calmer out there now so what generally happens is a bicycle hangover. The next day I run out of my apartment ready jump on my bike cause I’m late and it’s not there. It’s at Broadway/Lafayette. You are thinking she lost her bike but I didn’t. I instead walked up Houston Street on such a gorgeous sunny day so beautiful you could cry. I need fruit I thought for this walk and the guy who sells fruit on 1st and 1st was there and I bought figs and pears. Figs & Pears! That sounds like a poem title. And up the street, penless, I thought about what might go into this poem. Lines tearing out from all angles, about shirts, and an ending came to me but I knew I would never remember that but the jounce of the day seemed likely to hold many of the lines and I rode home swiftly weighing whether I dare do one errand before I got home wondering if that would be the disintegration of the poem or if I simply had it and it would go on until I was ready. I decided to play it safe and I parked and I saw John. I’ve lived in my building intermittently for 32 years, longer than the house I grew up in which was 18. That’s really scary only nine years did I live anywhere else. Hi John. There’s a cadre of us who have lived in my building for many many years. People like us live all over Manhattan and you could say we like to talk. Most of the ones in my building are gay men and they feel like brothers. John said hello back. The day was so great. How are you? Why was I playing it wild. He could only answer. Could he ever. John began and I could have said I left something burning upstairs, I’m so sorry I have to go to the bathroom, I’m late. Maybe it was the look in his eye that he really needed to tell someone the thing he was telling me. Plus I think to some extent the poem you need to protect is already not a poem anymore, is already gone. Maybe this poem was just glorious feeling, a great day to put a poem in, but not a poem at all. I slapped some lines down on an index card, but they weren’t even friends. I now have the vaguest thought to take a very deliberate walk each day not so much to reproduce the poem, but to make failure into a kind of friend and see what she will give if I meet her regular. 

Originally Published: September 4th, 2009

Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1949, was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 1971, and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. She gave her first reading at CBGB's, and then gravitated to St. Mark's church where she...

  1. September 4, 2009
     Daisy Fried

    Love this post, Eileen. In ref to the bikes...the post made me flashback to the summer I watched a bike being stolen from Broadway / Lafayette in the summer of 1988. I was standing there waiting for a friend and this guy walked up and said "is this bike yours?" and I said no, so very businesslike, he pulled a 2 x 4 from his bag, stuck it into the Kryptonite lock, twisted, and pop. Then he rode off on it. I hope it wasn't your bike. I was a very bad citizen, but I was sort of inexperienced and flabbergasted at the guy's openness. And he had a 2 x 4... Daisy

  2. September 4, 2009
     Rebecca Wolff

    Eileen, I truly live in fear of this. The other day I thought of some lines in the middle of something and slapped them down in my notebook but then couldn't find them again the next time I went to look in my notebook and thought: what if I actually wrote them on a little random piece of paper as one often does and tucked it away somewhere and now it's gone! gone! gone! I might as well kill myself!\r

    I guess the day wasn't as beautiful as your day. I'm going to work on attaining this equilibrium.

  3. September 13, 2009
     Cathy Park Hong

    I love biking. It shrinks the city down to a village and September is the most beautiful time to race through Manhattan, dodging trucks and cabs and pedestrians but I also do get frustrated in the evening when I must park my bike or walk my bike with my walking friends and then it becomes a burden, nudging that bike along on the sidewalk, trying to talk and smoke a cigarette at the same time. I had three bikes stolen in total. The last one (beautiful and blue with a spring seat) in front of McNally Bookstore after I popped in to read a book for ten minutes. When I came out, it was only a tire. My new bike looks like one of those beat up delivery bicycles so it never gets stolen.

  4. September 13, 2009
     John Oliver Simon

    I've lived for 41 years in my cottage in west central Berkeley. Actually there are two cottages, I eat and type in front and sleep out back under the redwood tree, with the garden in between. I still have tomatoes and kale and the second shift of raspberries has come in and new mustard and lettuce I planted in the moon's first quarter. From here I can ride my bike as far as Point Pinole or my granddaughter's house in Temescal, or with a lift from BART to the Center for the Art of Translation office south of Market, near the ballpark. As my friend Donald Schenker once remarked, "there are poems all over the place, it's practically embarrassing."

  5. September 14, 2009
     Daisy Fried

    Everybody has a bike story. I love bike stories. When I was a staff writer for the Phila. City Paper in the mid-90s, I did a piece called "Tell Me About Your Bike" in which I walked around Philly and stopped bikers and asked them questions about their bikes and biking. Everybody I asked had something to say. \r

  6. September 14, 2009
     Daisy Fried

    ps, and sometimes the stories really were bike stories, but often they were just pretending to be bike stories, and were about something else. of course.

  7. September 14, 2009
     Eileen Myles

    One of the things that's become great abt the NY expansion into Brooklyn is that everyone is riding over bridges and understanding the roads of well at least Brooklyn. The city's just become bigger through bikes. I was at a panel yesterday and Mariana (don't have her full name right here..) was talking about driving cross country on a bike and how her consciousness is permanently altered by that trip. It seems like an immense thought to me what one would be like after that.