Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning to Ride Einstein's Bicycle, a poem by my brother, Mr. G. Barnes

My Big Brother G. is a much better poet than I, and along with my brother Michael, one of my best mentors in all things regarding the arts. What follows is one of my favorites of his, written while he was the Director of Literary Art for the Utah Arts Counsel in 1985.

Learning to Ride Einstein’s Bicycle


Careening towards the camera,

mounted happily atop his bicycle,

dressed in his old man cardigan –

we’ve all seen the photograph.

Between unmanageable mustache

And the celebrated brow,

Albert Einstein’s look of glee,

eyes crinkling at the their corners.

He appears a little wobbly,

but in no danger. He could be pedaling now,

or coasting, or braking – we’ll never know.

“Once you learn it, it never leaves you!”.

we can almost hear him squeal.

There is delight in the incongruity of the picture;

used to thinking of him bent over his desk,

or lecturing in front of a chalkboard

festooned with formulae, or even walking,

self-absorbed under his homely hat,

his hands pitched deep into the pockets

of his rumpled raincoat, he appears in this photo

so like a child perched there on his bicycle seat.


And on some shelf in Wichita, Kansas,

Einstein’s brain has been preserved

in a very scientific jar. During the years

I’ve known about this, I’ve often thought of it,

pictured it in my mind. The same questions

roll over and over, like bicycle wheels:

who did this? why Wichita, Kansas?

was Einstein consulted – did he suggest it, even?

In my imagination I hear someone raving

that technology will catch up to the great brain,

frozen while the decades run ahead.

Someone wants to learn if there’s any more in there

about E=MC2 or something, I expect.

And I remember reading that once a convolution

gets carved into a brain it never fades,

the new information stays. I like to think

that squads of doctors will find a way to thaw

Einstein’s brain. And I imagine that charged moment,

them in a circle, arrested, reverent

over what they are about to discover. But what they get

is a little gallery of photographs of young Albert

first learning how to ride his bicycle.

G. Barnes

20 February 85, Salt Lake City