The Spinning Place

Thomas Stevens took a giant spin, becoming the first person to complete a trip around Earth by bicycle.
New York Times

Sometime on the third day of Hungary,
she joins him. Day and night, day
and night, propelled by the will of his legs,

he has been alone. Until now.
She is light and deft, a quixotic velocity.
She points at churches, at gypsies,

laughs and floods the unraveling road
with a language he cannot understand.
The inflection of asking lifts the hem

of her words. To him each note in her
impossible tongue asks, What are you afraid of?
When will you live in one city again?

Above them, a hawk spirals and dips. To it the world
is a brambled field, each day as simple as the hunt
for what invisible feet tunnel there.

He sees the twentieth century loom before them.
Buildings rise and fall. Great crowds cross
borders. Capitals change names. Call of birds

gone extinct. There are no cities, he says, only this
pedaled cartography of unbelonging.
The blue distills into granules of stars

and the air is hymnic, honeyed
with last light. He has not said what he meant.
She turns to go back the way

they came, the distance between them unspooled
and irrevocable, held in place by the flash
of spinning spokes, that bright and restless carousel.

Copyright © 2017 Chelsea Wagenaar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.