The Bicycle

Clemens Setz, translated by Peter Constantine
Photo by Ryan McGuire

The bicycle is the true vehicle
of poets. Think
of all it allows you to do:

As you ride it you can rise
and dip your head into the bell of the wind,
brake in a Trojan army of wet leaves,

balance on tilted wheels
under the strict eyes
of walk-don't-walk

like tightrope-walking spectacles
above the abyss of an empty circus ring.
The bicycle brings with it knowledge of headwind

and a horizon hunted in vain
on the way to your lover
in front of whose house you chain it,

as guardian, aluminum virgin, handcuff,
where it can safely let wild vines
grow over it, should you

for the duration of the night,
a lifetime,
not come out anymore.

CLEMENS SETZ (b. 1982, Graz) is an Austrian poet, novelist, jazz pianist, and mathematician. He was shortlisted for the German Book Prize and has received the Ernst-Willner-Preis, the Bremer Literaturpreis, the Outstanding Artist Award, and the Leipzig Book Award for Fiction. A translation of his most recent novel, Indigo, is scheduled to be published by W.W. Norton in 2014.

PETER CONSTANTINE’s recent translations include The Essential Writings of Rousseau, Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy, and works by Gogol, Tolstoy, Machiavelli, and Voltaire. He was awarded the penTranslation Prize for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann and a National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov.