As a tribute to the bicycle thread of the past days, voilà a small, modest poetry machine with a two-stroke engine which works perfectly only with the original components underlying its mechanism:


Pasa una bicicleta
por la carretera.
Parece que no es nada
una bicicleta…
Pero vista detrás de una alambrada
ese trasto de dos ruedas
le llena a uno de ideas.

Por la carretera
va que vuela,
una bicicleta.

¿Qué treta
me juegas,
fortuna y rueda?
De mis pies nacen andas
y surgen sedas.

Por sólo altibajar mal las rodillas
yo mismo me llevo en sillas.

Ya más que Clavileño, Clavileña
dulce, metálica, sin par sorpresa:
¡Oh noble bicicleta!

Max Aub
Diario de Djelfa, 21.2.1942

L’Arpeggiata – Los Impossibles

It’s not just the words the poem is made of, and the metamorphosis of the man into the means he’s riding, that make me to speak about perfection, but also other elements, beginning with the the context in which Max Aub wrote it, in the concentration camp of Djelfa, Algeria, where he, a Spaniard born of a French mother and of a German father, a socialist denounced as a communist, of Jewish origin, born in France, but sans papiers avant la lettre, that is, the prototype of the stranger unwelcome in Pétain’s France, was interned.

There is then the powerful interaction with which the deeply Catholic rite of carrying the holy image in a procession on the two-wheeled andas decorated with precious textiles is impressed and interpreted through the visual memories of an internationalist and laic spirit like Aub.

And there is also the literary reference to the Quixote and to the winged wooden horse, capable of carrying the hidalgo and his esquire to very real imaginary places, not to mention the role played by the bicycle in the familiar landscape of my maternal grandparents in the Venetian plain, and, finally, the fact that my own bicycle in the very moment when I read for the first time this poem by Aub, turned into a winged horse – and since my bicycle is continuously changing, as it is called Vélib’, the metamorphosis is repeated again and again, on the scale of a whole stud-farm.

A bicycle passes
along the road.
It seems to be
nothing at all…
But seen from behind the barbed wire
this stuff made of two wheels
fills you with ideas.

On the road
there flies,
a bicycle.

What trick do
you play with me
fortune and wheel?
My feet become andas
and emit silk.

Just by poorly alternating my knees
I turn into the carrier of my saddle.

Rather than Clavileño, Clavileña
sweet, metallic, unexpected surprise:
Oh noble bicycle!

Maxime Noiré, La route de Djelfa

“The world famous gasoline «El Clavileño»
is the best for the automobile!”