New York City as a Fidget Spinner


balanced on the thumb

of a security guard
at the MoMA,

a tiny orange hurricane,
dear toy
he does not even watch
as he guards Jean Tinguely’s
Fragment from Homage to New York

(1960):
painted metal,
fabric, tape, wood, and
rubber tires
all painted white,

one of the tires unspooled
and dangling quail-feather-like

from the top,
an ostentatious vehicle
for going nowhere,
for the sheer joy of rotation

 which these wheels will
never perform, this bicycle
turned sexcycle—why
are there four extra wheels?
Once on the twentieth story
this guy had

a hard-on for me
or more likely
for New York
like everyone has a hard-on
for New York. Manhattan
has a hundred hard-ons

for itself, the skyscrapers.
High-speed elevators
spurting to the top
along pulleys.

A maze of pulleys wove
through Tinguely’s wheeled
abomination, not just
the Fragment but
the whole Homage,
massive creaking
groaning sculpture-machine
in the MoMA courtyard,
the bundled-up audience
for this first and
final show
hypnotized: bicycle spokes
a blur, hammers
plunging onto dissonant
piano keys, a saw
sawing ad infinitum,
crowbar thrashing in a bathtub.
This guy and I
were a pair of fleshy scissors
joined at the groin,
opening and closing,
exquisite friction,
but I didn’t
have a hard-on because
I didn’t belong there
and I was worried
the whole city
was going to topple
like Jenga blocks
gripped by my rickety fingers
or else catch fire
the way that contraption
was engineered to,
Tinguely’s face flickering
brighter and brighter
in the flame-light.
I gripped the bedposts
while the guy
was pounding me ecstatically
or indifferently,
in any case very fast
like an engine piston
and beneath his shallow
breathing I heard
a metallic creak,
a giant gear stories below
rotating, grinding,
turned by a sweating,
walleyed ox,
and sparking the stark power
that holds us aloft.
If everyone in the city
went outside, they wouldn’t
fit in the streets;
the buildings must stay filled
with blood.
Faster, faster, the creak
becoming whir,
fifty times a second
the fidget spinner’s
ball bearings
making the same circuit,
gyroscopic
atop the stolid thumb.
Afterward the guy
threw the tissue in the toilet
and pissed. Flush,
swirl. Firemen came
to douse the charred,
convulsing cyclopede.
The crowd shouted,
Bravo! Bravo!
I hop on the sexcycle
and ride it
out the window.
Nobody,
not even the security guard,
can stop me.

 

Mitchell Jacobs lives in Vientiane and teaches English at the National University of Laos. His poems appear in journals such as Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Passages North, Ploughshares, and Poetry Northwest.