Most rainy mornings like this, I can think of no better poem as a companion than Julia Knobloch's "Industry City," which was published in Issue No. 6 - Winter 2018-19, and appears within Knobloch's first full-length collection of poems, Do Not Return (2019) from Broadstone Books. Although the poem ends on a quiet and mournful image of a June night, it also carries the feel of a cold and forlorn February morning; and in particular ––– one spent wondering, and creating.
February Eleventh, 2020
I took my bike to die in Industry City today. It was the first bike I bought in New York, I bought it used in the East Village, an overpriced vintage Peugeot frame. Over the years I spent more than 1000 dollars to maintain it because soon after I bought it, it needed repairs and kept needing them. Now I had let it sit in the yard for too long, the tires first flat then porous, the rubber grips viscous, the saddle fissured, the chain rusted, snow falling and melting on it, a nuisance in disrepair to my neighbors and landlords. The bike took me all over Manhattan in those first years, to Inwood along the river, through giddy summer nights on the Lower East Side, winter storms on Columbus Circle, up 1st Avenue, where I was doored twice, once by a police officer who begged me not to report him but then didn’t call in the evening to hear how I was doing. The job on 1st Avenue was the first of three jobs where I was bullied, my old pre-immigration self is still confused why this kept happening. The bike took me from Manhattan to Brooklyn when I moved there for more space and less rent before everyone, including you, was moving back in the other direction. I loved the bike like other people love their pets, like I had loved my car -- a Renault, come to think of it -- my companion who waited for me at whatever lamppost I left it. In the picture I took of it in the middle of the Manhattan Bridge I can almost see it smile. There is something about bike rides, these moments out of time, a common theme in movies, you know, you studied these things, narrative. Sometimes I imagined how we would ride together along the bay down to Coney Island, I owned two functioning bikes for a while, and when you said you didn’t know how to ride a bike, I thought how fun it would be to show you how, I imagined how you would laugh like I imagined what you would look like when you swim. I don’t know if you know how to swim but there are several reasons why I think you know, one being that parents are commanded to teach their children how to swim, and even though you said that your dad thanked G-d for no longer being responsible for you when you turned thirteen, I’m sure your parents made sure that you wouldn’t drown. We never rode together along the bay down to Coney Island, and the bike started rusting away, everything, the basket, the bell, the frame, not just the chain, and I was unable to do anything against it or with it or about it. I was incapable of leaving it at a random corner or putting it out on a Monday or Thursday night and waking up hearing the garbage truck, but finally today, a few days before the summer solstice and just hours before flying to Europe for my father’s birthday, I took it to Industry City, after all it is a Peugeot bike, and maybe Industry City is where hipster bikes, even in a state of despair, want to go when they die. Frankly I also chose Industry City because it reminds me of you, it reminds me of the 1970s movie we saw together, the one with the car chase through quite different looking blocks between 3rd Avenue, and 2nd Avenue, and the piers. I forget the name of the movie but it was one of our better movie nights, not as good as the one when we saw the preview of that Victorian horror drama, I don’t think it ever made it to the real screen, an abandoned work of unsuccessful narrative, but the memory of the complicity of that night still brings me pleasure, and I wish it does to you, too, although I don’t know if you remember; then again, knowing you, I believe you remember everything, definitely the names of movies. Industry City is also the place where we had one of our first bad nights, in that gallery I assume you’re still frequenting because you always seemed more into art than into poetry. You had begun dragging me to readings in art galleries but ignored me once we got there, flirting with women whom you called friends, potential clients, saying that if I couldn’t bear to watch you network why did I come with you in the first place and in fact, why didn’t I just leave, I clearly wasn’t enjoying myself, you wouldn’t be too long, and I walked the few blocks back home, convincing myself I was giving you space. You came hours later, your hair smelling of bonfire and alien fragrances, your breath of liquor. It was time to let you go but I think I mentioned that I was doored twice and bullied three times; I think there is a connection between these things, and then you left, and I watched the snow fall and melt on the bike for almost two years until today. At first, I imagined leaving the bike at the entrance to that gallery, but then I didn’t remember what side street and what warehouse entrance, and I didn’t want to look up the address for a piece of performance art that only I would see. I left the bike leaning against a scaffolding on 2nd Avenue and 35th Street, I padded the saddle and said thank you for your kindness in the extraction of this, wishing you well, happy strong sun strawberry moon solstice and walked away past the coffee lab, the wine store, and the pickle shack, in the ever-increasing June light.