Composed of five movements, bicycle‘s predominant imaginings, that of circles and bridges, bond the worlds of the Americas through all their interior levels. In such marriage—where these interiors settle in silence and repose, where attachment and aversion are seen as different sides of one coin, where the wheels turn to resist and to empower the nameless, where refuge locations are made to allow the liminal to resolve itself and transcend—bicycle‘s America unleashes frame-breaking force to bare these uncharted worlds within our supposed divided countries and continents. Harrison’s poetic opens spaces where all dichotomies come together as an boundaryless egg of being; here, without and beyond language, the poetry of bicycle agitates and argues what is most real be witnessed in completion as a shapely gourd throbbing with prayers for both these unities and these differences, for the reception and the flowing through of a Being refusing to be stilled.
The accumulation of almost four years of daily exercises in bike riding, meditation and writing, bicycle works through the ineluctable phenomenon of appearances to the essence of existence, a process that is, for Harrison, as it is for certain strands in Western (Plato, Heidegger, etc.) and Eastern (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) thought, temporal. These poems’ emphatic celebration of process and connectivity put the lie of ritual to ritual. Thus lines like “the caskets/full of faces/and hands/that leak” and “this leak for hate that bleeds” collapse physical death and moral outrage back into their “places’ within an infinite continuum. For Harrison, his homeland of Panama, “the snake that pulls its own/ from oceans,” is “the kiss/ that is always an isthmus,” a literal and metaphoric connector. And though Panama, like all lands, appears set in the stone of culture and geographic stability, this is an illusion, an index of historical myopia. . . .bicycle is an enactment of movement itself, a series of anti-narrative narratives that move back and forth as healing cauterizations, as geographical and cultural sediments, the residues of what comes next, the fate of every form of sentient and non-sentient being, e.g., human and empire: “I am proof/that America/will die.” The outcome of two of four years’ ascetic endurance in the form of biking, meditation, and writing through all sublimities and cruelties of quotidian life and Milwaukee weather, Roberto Harrison’s perseverant sentences—issuing forth as spliced tensile lines—enact in their cycling a vulnerable concatenation of multitudes across the segregated poles of north and south, surveyor and surveilled, bleach and wound. Harrison’s verse might at first appear surrealist, but it labors to divulge actual material and philosophical linkages in spite of all “social / crevices”—and to spite the complicity of participation in the mere “network,” which “begins and ends with ownership.” Listen “in this / that places all / the planets / on the phone” for the “dust of disconnected mouths” that, consolidated, builds both the hope of solidarity in the welter of ache and “the stitched exit that a mind makes.”
A book of transformation, Roberto Harrison’s bicycle proposes the incredible two-wheeled velocipede as the newest vehicle of enlightenment. The lines of the verse are spokes, the stanzas the strokes of the thighs as they peddle through a recurrent but new teaching. At once subtle and earnest, bicycle is magically perceptive and gentle and wise. There is nothing else like it. Harrison is a master.