Critical Mass

by John Brehm


Lifted their bikes up-
side down above
their thousand heads and
locked the grid
blocked the inter-
section shut
the whole East
Village down
cars jammed
against that
stopped moment
that break in
time’s flow
nothing moving
to go unless
inward until
the helicopter’s
searchlight shook
the air and cops
billyclubbed a couple kids
to set example
hauled off
a truckload of
others forced
apart the forces
that swirled
together there—
but what I still see
are the wheels
held upward
spoked with light
freed from the pavement
spinning into sky.

John Brehm is the author of Sea of Faith, which won the 2004 Brittingham Prize from the University of Wisconsin Press, and the associate editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Boulevard, and The Best American Poetry 1999. His new book, Help Is on the Way, is forthcoming in 2012.

Editor’s note: This poem was first published Aug. 11, 2011.