This poem compares a piece of music to a bicycle. A pavane is meant to accompany a stately dance.
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.
from Shibboleth, 1998
Oxford University Press
Copyright 2001 by Michael Donaghy.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).