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Best Famous David Lehman Poems

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by David Lehman | |

Ode To Pornography

 If you could write down the words
moving through a man's mind as
he masturbates you'd have a quick 
bonus bonk read, I used to think.
But words were never adequate or the point in the bar where the girl is a boy the boy is a girl the two girls exchange underpants the one with the dildo is the boy each needs to know what the other is feeling, so the thrill of humiliation is visited on one and the other is disbelieved, perennial virgin, with teeth marks on her buttocks hiding in the closet and the power between them is distributed unequally the other on her knees in ecstasy


by David Lehman | |

December 14

 This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere,
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
That never touch with inarticulate pang
Those dying generations-at their song.
The One remains, the many change and pass The expiring swan, and as he sings he dies.
The earth, the stars, the light, the day, the skies, A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines, Think not of them, thou hast thy music too- Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery, If but some vengeful god would call to me, Because I could not stop for Death, Not to return.
Earth's the right place for love.
My playmate, when we both were clothed alike, Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, Suffer my genial spirits to decay Upon the bridal day, which is not long? I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.


by David Lehman | |

Sexism

 The happiest moment in a woman's life
Is when she hears the turn of her lover's key
In the lock, and pretends to be asleep
When he enters the room, trying to be
Quiet but clumsy, bumping into things,
And she can smell the liquor on his breath
But forgives him because she has him back
And doesn't have to sleep alone.
The happiest moment is a man's life Is when he climbs out of bed With a woman, after an hour's sleep, After making love, and pulls on His trousers, and walks outside, And pees in the bushes, and sees The high August sky full of stars And gets in his car and drives home.


by David Lehman | |

January 24

 I was about to be mugged by a man 
with a chain so angry he growled
at the Lincoln Center subway station
when out of nowhere appeared a tall
chubby-faced Hasidic Jew with peyot
and a black hat a black coat white shirt
with prayer-shawl fringes showing 
we walked together out of the station
and when we got outside and shook hands 
I noticed he was blind.
Goodbye, I said, as giddy as a man waking from an anesthetic in the recovery room, happy, with a hard-on.
The cabs were on strike on Broadway so beautiful a necklace of yellow beads I breathed in the fumes impossibly happy


by David Lehman | |

June 6

 No two are identical though
they begin from the same
point in time the same point in
the dream when the radio shuts
itself off in the middle of
"Just in Time" (Sinatra version)
the curtains are blowing in
and the driver of the hearse
outside looks up and says "Room
for one more" and now you
know what kind of hospital you're in
and you must escape from it
by acting "normal" pretending there isn't
a conspiracy against you as Dead of Night
shifts into Shock Corridor
there are a dozen versions of this dream
I keep thinking of what Ashbery said
about escapism he said we need
all the escapism we can get
and even that isn't going to be enough


by David Lehman | |

September 22

 It's the day of the ram
and the head of the year
Rosh Ha'Shanah at
services I sat next to
Mel Torme who outshone
all comers with his bar
mitzvah heroics while on
my left is Barnett Newman
big talker whose favorite
subjects include the horses
and the stock market he
knows the odds the women
are seated upstairs this is
an orthodox congregation
very serious I make
eye contact with the wife
of Menelaus who runs off
with Paris confident I'm Paris.


by David Lehman | |

Examples (August 27)

 The last Campbell's tomato soup can 
of the twentieth century is going to 
the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh 
That is an example of a sentence 
Another is this from a CEO in Fortune 
"You die in either case, but this way you get 
to do it proactively," where the adverb 
makes the sentence I'm walking amid 
the tourists on Bleecker Street the riffraff 
the students with backpacks the bums and 
a good old-fashioned New York feeling 
hits me from head to toe a misanthropic snarl 
the urge to kick a stranger in the pants, 
and if you don't smoke you feel as if you do


by David Lehman | |

The Difference Between Pepsi And Coke

 Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
 intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind
 numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence,
 breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during
 the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference
 between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized
 the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam
 months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him
 a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes;
 transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height
 of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks
 French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris;
 knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.


by David Lehman | |

April 19

 We have too much exhibitionism 
and not enough voyeurism
in poetry we have plenty of bass
and not enough treble, more amber
beer than the frat boys can drink but
less red wine than meets the lip
in this beaker of the best Bordeaux,
too much thesis, too little antithesis
and way too much New York Times
in poetry we've had too much isolationism
and too few foreign entanglements
we need more Baudelaire on the quai 
d'Anjou more olive trees and umbrella pines 
fewer leafless branches on the rue Auguste Comte
too much sociology not enough Garcia Lorca
more colons and dashes fewer commas
less love based on narrow self-interest
more lust based on a feast of kisses
too many novels too few poems
too many poets not enough poetry


by David Lehman | |

PC

 for Aaron Fogel 

Politically-correct 
personal computers 
point and click.
President Clinton (codename Peacock) can't protect crack pushing Communist Party cops pursuing a care package of peasant consciousness in a car park.
Poverty's a crime, and capital punishment par for the course, in this penal code.
A plausible cliffhanger can't cure the paralyzed, prevent cancer, or prepare California for Perry Como, that peerless crooner.
Pitcher and catcher confer.
O cornet player, play "Pomp and Circumstance" please, in the partly cloudy cool Pacific.


by David Lehman | |

November 6

 Remember when Khrushchev said
"We will bury you!"
on the cover
of Time
I thought he was
employing a metaphor
as in "Braves Scalp Giants!"
on the back page
of the Daily News
I pictured the Russians
burying us under a mound
of all the rubble
that rubles could buy
when what he meant was
he had come not to praise Caesar
but to bury him


by David Lehman | |

October 16

 What can you say about the Mets
down three games to none
one run down with six outs to go
Cedeno singles steals second Mora walks
they pull off a double steal
and Olerud singles them home
off the previously unhittable John Rocker
(look at his eyes, he's so intense
he looks cross-eyed) and we're still alive
and I'm still fourteen years old
and the kids in the movie about summer camp
are beatniks and this is the 1960s
the early 1960s of Maury Wills
on the basepaths and Ray Charles
on the radio and chemistry biology
geometry locker-room cruelty and daily masturbation
what a relief to return to 1999
in time for Benitez to strike out
the Braves' last batter


by David Lehman | |

January 1

 Some people confuse inspiration with lightning
not me I know it comes from the lungs and air 
you breathe it in you breathe it out it circulates 
it's the breath of my being the wind across the face 
of the waters yes but it's also something that comes 
at my command like a turkey club sandwich 
with a cup of split pea soup or like tones 
from Benny Goodman's clarinet my clarinet 
the language that never fails to respond
some people think you need to be pure of heart
not true it comes to the pure and impure alike
the patient and impatient the lovers the onanists
and the virgins you just need to be able to listen
and talk at the same time and you'll hear it like
the long-delayed revelation at the end of the novel
which turns out to be something simple a traumatic
moment that fascinated us more when it was only
a fragment an old song a strange noise a mistake
of hearing a phone that wouldn't stop ringing


by David Lehman | |

Our Friendship (January 14)

 We have a name for it 
in the South: 
asshole buddies.
It means we've known each other so long it doesn't matter that he's an asshole in my opinion or I'm an asshole in his opinion or whatever And I want you to know I'm not from the South and you're not my buddy and it doesn't matter


by David Lehman | |

April 21

 I'm a very average person,
and I think most people are.
I vote with the common man.
I have two kids, a boy and a girl.
Last Sunday I played golf with the boss.
Hey, it beats working.
I'm his wife.
I may be brainless but I'm her husband.
I played golf with her Last Sunday I played golf with the boss and it was the first warm morning in May and like every other moron driving a lawnmower I'm their husband.
I may be brainless but I'm their wife.
I'm their mother.
I have two kids, a boy and a girl, and it was the first warm morning in May and I think most people are like every other moron driving a lawnmower.
I'm a very average person.
I vote with the common man.
Hey, it beats working.


by David Lehman | |

December 7

 As I sit at my desk wishing
I did not have to edit a book
on poetry and painting a
subject that fascinates me
usually, but today is not as
usual, being today, white sky,
decent amount of sunlight,
forty one degrees in Central Park,
and it makes sense to dream of
Chicago, another big city
with two major league ballclubs,
and the pleasure of seeing Paul
and you, too, Elaine, whom
I never get to see often enough
in our own city of the subway series
the champagne gallery and
the tech wreck on wall street,
and as I look out the window
almost any minute I expect
the brokers to fall from the sky
like Icarus in Brughel's painting in
Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts"
(and so back to work)


by David Lehman | |

To The Author Of Glare

 There comes a time when the story turns into twenty
different stories and soon after that he academy of shadows
retreats to the cave of a solitary boy in a thriving

metropolis where no one remembers the original story
whic is, of course, a sign of its great success: to be forgotten
implies you were once known, and that is something we

can prize more than the gesture greater than the achievement:
but I wander from the main point: the main point is one
among many fine dots so fine you need a microscope to see them

but then they multiply like germs: the work of the deepest cells
is ergonomically incorrect, but effective nevertheless, like
my footprints in the snow leading to you, wou would be my father

if this were a dream and I on the verge of waking up somewhere
other than home: but the hours remain ours, though they
were gone almost as soon as they arrived, hat and coat in hand.
[Glare is a book of poetry by A.
R.
Ammons.
]


by David Lehman | |

February 23

 Light rain is falling in Central Park
but not on Upper Fifth Avenue or Central Park West
where sun and sky are yellow and blue
Winds are gusting on Washington Square
through the arches and on to LaGuardia Place
but calm is the corner of 8th Street and Second Avenue
which reminds me of something John Ashbery said
about his poem "Crazy Weather" he said
he was in favor of all kinds of weather
just so long as it's genuine weather
which is always unusually bad, unusually
good, or unusually indifferent,
since there isn't really any norm for weather
When he was a boy his mother met a friend
who said, "Isn't this funny weather?"

It was one of his earliest memories


by David Lehman | |

To William Holden

 (July 15) 

We know who 
the guards are 
in those POW 
movies with brutal 
but easy to 
fool fat Germans 
or sadistic Japanese 
who never smiled 
they're the grown-ups 
we're the kids 
that's the secret


by David Lehman | |

A Quick One Before I Go

 There comes a time in every man's life 
when he thinks: I have never had a single 
original thought in my life 
including this one & therefore I shall 
eliminate all ideas from my poems 
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain 
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants 
red brick houses where I shall give up booze 
and organized religion even if it means 
despair is a logical possibility that can't 
be disproved I shall concentrate on the five 
senses and what they half perceive and half 
create, the green street signs with white 
letters on them the body next to mine 
asleep while I think these thoughts 
that I want to eliminate like nostalgia
0 was there ever a man who felt as I do 
like a pronoun out of step with all the other 
floating signifiers no things but in words 
an orange T-shirt a lime green awning