Images & Footsteps: A Poem

Paul Zweig.
Images & Footsteps: A Poem.
With five etchings by Berta Moltke.
Verona, Italy: Plain Wrapper Press, 1971. (10126)

Signed by the poet and the artist below the colophon. Numbered 88 in an edition of two hundred.

These nine stanzas written by the poet, book reviewer, and Walt Whitman scholar Paul Zweig (1935–1984) were published originally as “The Bicycle Odyssey” in the Summer 1968 issue of The Hudson Review. They chronical the adventures of one who has decided that “Sleep is no death, no familiar ordeal,” one who rises, but refuses to wake, having “put my sleep to sleep.” His wife notices him from behind the windshield of a parked car. His father is perched on a leaf waiting for his son to wake in order to “return him to his body.” Hopping onto his bicycle the sleeper rides to the beach, observing that “Sleep is a diving bell, a portable adventure,” an adventure which continues as he loses his clothes, rides to the bottom of the sea, and speaks to sailors in a sunken ship. “Words, words,” they reply. “They sink in water and don’t taste very good.” Still beneath the waves he rides through lilies that sing, encounters an old man who counts days on a rosary, and rides until his bicycle rusts and he is forced to swim. Finally, a woman he calls Mother is found buried in the sand. She wears the ocean. And he becomes “the wild, thinking water,” enjoying spiny fish playing inside, and electric eels plugged into him, and so is resurrected.

Danish artist Berta Grete Countess Moltkey-Huitfeldt (b. 1938) trained in Madrid and Paris. Her early works were landscape paintings, but she developed a more surrealist approach later. An active printmaker she has produced lithographs and intaglio, and combined techniques involving photography. The exhibited pages with Zweig’s text for the fourth stanza describing descent into the sea to find a sunken ship is paired with Moltke’s submarinal scape with creatures, bones, and relics. Richard-Gabriel Rummonds, an authority on handpress printing and occasional visiting artist at Bridwell Library, set the Horizon Light type and printed the text on Cartiere Miliani Fabriano.

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Images & Footsteps: A Poem