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Counterpoint, David Alpaugh's first collection of poems, was selected from more than 800 manuscripts to receive the 1994 Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Praised by the judges for their zany energy and verbal pyrotechnics, Alpaugh's witty, often moving poems speak to one another in spirited counterpoint: child to adult; animal to human; ad man to poet; New Jersey to California; Third World to America; present to past; and vice versa.
"David Alpaugh's Counterpoint is cause for rejoicing. His poems radiate tolerance and affection for every subject he touches upon. He is a poet of complete honesty, a poet of vision and intelligence. This, coupled with his wild imaginings and playful wit, makes for an important first book whose craft and sensibility will satisfy and delight the reader." —Ruth Daigon
"ROLLFAST": poem from Counterpoint
What we did that summer evening
was turn our bicycles upside-down
so the seats were on the ground
and the wheels in the air —
then we twirled the pedal round and round
till our knuckles and fingers were white
and we couldn’t make out individual spokes:
just a silver blur and an incremental hum
as the wheel sang the song of its appetite.
What we did next was feed the wheel flowers,
flowers not worth putting in a crystal vase
— Trifolium, Dandelion, Queen Anne’s Lace —
flowers that thrived on parental neglect
in the unkempt grass by the utility shed
as if to affirm Britannica on weed:
any plant growing where it is not wanted.
Who would be afraid of an idle wheel that spat
out handfuls of ragtag flowers, already half dead?
And the bleeding stalks left a stinging answer
in the summer air: perfume we’d count on ever
after — to keep coming at us stronger than before.
Lynne Saughter went first; she thrust in dandelions;
then Bruce Edwards, a single budding clover:
the only sign we’d get that his own tousled head
would test the metaphor’s might just two weeks later
when wheels would screech and metal do its work
a few miles west off Willow Pass Road.
It was starting to get dark on Mount Diablo.
We flipped our bicycles right-side-up
and raced around the cul-de-sac like maniacs,
or Dante’s damned, or Milton’s falling angels,
getting high on the last drops of Daylight Savings
until parents cried, Allee, Allee, in-free.
Later we fell asleep thanking Schwinn,
Rollfast and whatever gods may be
for the night, the mountain and the wheel
within a wheel — like love, like magic,
like a spell to help us keep our balance,
and make up for bald tires,
as we cycle to the valley floor.