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Best Famous David Lehman Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous David Lehman poems. This is a select list of the best famous David Lehman poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous David Lehman poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of David Lehman poems.

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Written 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

Written by David Lehman |

December 25

 Christmas defeated Chanukah
once again last night
by a margin of three billion dollars
or so, but every time I hear
a Yiddish word like bupkes
in a movie (L.
Confidential) or when Oleg Cassini in that new play Jackie calls a garment a shmatta, it's "good for the Jews," as our parents used to say.
Meanwhile some things have stayed the same; the drunken lout in the street is still somebody's father.
Hey, kid, how does it feel to have a pop that's a flop? And we had such good ideas for changing the mental universe, if only as a project in philosophy class, the one I still dream about failing when I have that dream everybody has, of being back in college and needing this one course to graduate, which I forgot to attend

Written 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

More great poems below...

Written by David Lehman |

Tenth Commandment

 The woman said yes she would go to Australia with him
Unless he heard wrong and she said Argentina
Where they could learn the tango and pursue the widows
Of Nazi war criminals unrepentant to the end.
But no, she said Australia.
She'd been born in New Zealand.
The difference between the two places was the difference Between a hamburger and a chocolate malted, she said.
In the candy store across from the elementary school, They planned their tryst.
She said Australia, which meant She was willing to go to bed with him, and this Was before her husband's coronary At a time when a woman didn't take off her underpants If she didn't like you.
She said Australia, And he saw last summer's seashell collection In a plastic bag on a shelf in the mud room With last summer's sand.
The cycle of sexual captivity Beginning in romance and ending in adultery Was now in the late middle phases, the way America Had gone from barbarism to amnesia without A period of high decadence, which meant something, But what? A raft on the rapids? The violinist At the gate? Oh, absolute is the law of biology.
For the pornography seminar, what should she wear?

Written by David Lehman |

Twelfth Night

 His first infidelity was a mistake, but not as big
As her false pregnancy.
Later, the boy found out He was born three months earlier than the date On his birth certificate, which had turned into A marriage license in his hands.
Had he been trapped In a net, like a moth mistaken for a butterfly? And why did she--what was in it for her? It took him all this time to figure it out.
The barroom boast, "I never had to pay for it," Is bogus if marriage is a religious institution On the operating model of a nineteenth-century factory.
On the other hand, women's lot was no worse then Than it is now.
The division of labor made sense In theories developed by college boys in jeans Who grasped the logic their fathers had used To seduce women and deceive themselves.
The pattern repeats itself, the same events In a different order obeying the conventions of A popular genre.
Winter on a desolate beach.
Spring While there's snow still on the balcony and, In the window, a plane flies over the warehouse.
The panic is gone.
But the pain remains.
And the apple, The knife, and the honey are months away.

Written by David Lehman |

Operation Memory

 We were smoking some of this knockout weed when
Operation Memory was announced.
To his separate bed Each soldier went, counting backwards from a hundred With a needle in his arm.
And there I was, in the middle Of a recession, in the middle of a strange city, between jobs And apartments and wives.
Nobody told me the gun was loaded.
We'd been drinking since early afternoon.
I was loaded.
The doctor made me recite my name, rank, and serial number when I woke up, sweating, in my civvies.
All my friends had jobs As professional liars, and most had partners who were good in bed.
What did I have? Just this feeling of always being in the middle Of things, and the luck of looking younger than fifty.
At dawn I returned to draft headquarters.
I was eighteen And counting backwards.
The interviewer asked one loaded Question after another, such as why I often read the middle Of novels, ignoring their beginnings and their ends.
when Had I decided to volunteer for intelligence work? "In bed With a broad," I answered, with locker-room bravado.
The truth was, jobs Were scarce, and working on Operation Memory was better than no job At all.
Unamused, the judge looked at his watch.
It was 1970 By the time he spoke.
Recommending clemency, he ordered me to go to bed At noon and practice my disappearing act.
Someone must have loaded The harmless gun on the wall in Act I when I was asleep.
And there I was, without an alibi, in the middle Of a journey down nameless, snow-covered streets, in the middle Of a mystery--or a muddle.
These were the jobs That saved men's souls, or so I was told, but when The orphans assembled for their annual reunion, ten Years later, on the playing fields of Eton, each unloaded A kit bag full of troubles, and smiled bravely, and went to bed.
Thanks to Operation Memory, each of us woke up in a different bed Or coffin, with a different partner beside him, in the middle Of a war that had never been declared.
No one had time to load His weapon or see to any of the dozen essential jobs Preceding combat duty.
And there I was, dodging bullets, merely one In a million whose lucky number had come up.
When It happened, I was asleep in bed, and when I woke up, It was over: I was 38, on the brink of middle age, A succession of stupid jobs behind me, a loaded gun on my lap.

Written by David Lehman |

The Gift

 "He gave her class.
She gave him sex.
" -- Katharine Hepburn on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers He gave her money.
She gave him head.
He gave her tips on "aggressive growth" mutual funds.
She gave him a red rose and a little statue of eros.
He gave her Genesis 2 (21-23).
She gave him Genesis 1 (26-28).
He gave her a square peg.
She gave him a round hole.
He gave her Long Beach on a late Sunday in September.
She gave him zinnias and cosmos in the plenitude of July.
He gave her a camisole and a brooch.
She gave him a cover and a break.
He gave her Venice, Florida.
She gave him Rome, New York.
He gave her a false sense of security.
She gave him a true sense of uncertainty.
He gave her the finger.
She gave him what for.
He gave her a black eye.
She gave him a divorce.
He gave her a steak for her black eye.
She gave him his money back.
He gave her what she had never had before.
She gave him what he had had and lost.
He gave her nastiness in children.
She gave him prudery in adults.
He gave her Panic Hill.
She gave him Mirror Lake.
He gave her an anthology of drum solos.
She gave him the rattle of leaves in the wind.

Written by David Lehman |


 for Jim Cummins 

In Iowa, Jim dreamed that Della Street was Anne Sexton's
Dave drew a comic strip called the "Adventures of Whitman," about a bearded beer-guzzler in Superman uniform.
Donna dressed like Wallace Stevens in a seersucker summer suit.
To town came Ted Berrigan, saying, "My idea of a bad poet is Marvin Bell.
" But no one has won as many prizes as Philip Levine.
At the restaurant, people were talking about Philip Levine's latest: the Pulitzer.
A toast was proposed by Anne Sexton.
No one saw the stranger, who said his name was Marvin Bell, pour something into Donna's drink.
"In the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, there you feel free," said Ted Berrigan, pulling on a Chesterfield.
Everyone laughed, except T.
I asked for directions.
"You turn right on Gertrude Stein, then bear left.
Three streetlights down you hang a Phil Levine and you're there," Jim said.
When I arrived I saw Ted Berrigan with cigarette ash in his beard.
Graffiti about Anne Sexton decorated the men's room walls.
Beth had bought a quart of Walt Whitman.
Donna looked blank.
"Walt who?" The name didn't ring a Marvin Bell.
You laugh, yet there is nothing inherently funny about Marvin Bell.
You cry, yet there is nothing inherently scary about Robert Lowell.
You drink a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, as thirsty as Walt Whitman.
You bring in your car for an oil change, thinking, this place has the aura of Philip Levine.
Then you go home and write: "He kissed her Anne Sexton, and she returned the favor, caressing his Ted Berrigan.
" Donna was candid.
"When the spirit of Ted Berrigan comes over me, I can't resist," she told Marvin Bell, while he stood dejected at the xerox machine.
Anne Sexton came by to circulate the rumor that Robert Duncan had flung his drink on a student who had called him Philip Levine.
The cop read him the riot act.
"I don't care," he said, "if you're Walt Whitman.
" Donna told Beth about her affair with Walt Whitman.
"He was indefatigable, but he wasn't Ted Berrigan.
" The Dow Jones industrials finished higher, led by Philip Levine, up a point and a half on strong earnings.
Marvin Bell ended the day unchanged.
Analyst Richard Howard recommended buying May Swenson and selling Anne Sexton.
In the old days, you liked either Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton, not both.
Ted Berrigan changed that just by going to a ballgame with Marianne Moore.
And one day Philip Levine looked in the mirror and saw Marvin Bell.

Written by David Lehman |

Eleventh Hour

 The bloom was off the economic recovery.
"I just want to know one thing," she said.
What was that one thing? He'll never know, Because at just that moment he heard the sound Of broken glass in the bathroom, and when he got there, It was dark.
His hand went to the wall But the switch wasn't where it was supposed to be Which felt like déjà vu.
And then she was gone.
And now he knew how it felt to stand On the local platform as the express whizzes by With people chatting in a dialect Of English he couldn't understand, because his English Was current as of 1968 and no one speaks that way except In certain books.
So the hours spent in vain Were minutes blown up into comic-book balloons full Of Keats's odes.
"Goodbye, kid.
" Tears streamed down The boy's face.
It was a great feeling, Like the feeling you get when you throw things away After a funeral: clean and empty in the morning dark.
There was no time for locker-room oratory.
They knew they were facing a do-or-die situation, With their backs to the wall, and no tomorrow.

Written by David Lehman |

When A Woman Loves A Man

 When she says Margarita she means Daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again," she means, "Put your arms around me from behind as I stand disconsolate at the window.
" He's supposed to know that.
When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading, or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he is raking leaves in Ithaca or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate at the window overlooking the bay where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
When a woman loves a man it is one-ten in the morning, she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels drinking lemonade and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed where she remains asleep and very warm.
When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now," he stops talking.
Her best friend comes over and says, "Did somebody die?" When a woman loves a man, they have gone to swim naked in the stream on a glorious July day with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle of water ruching over smooth rocks, and there is nothing alien in the universe.
Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat? When he says, "Ours is a transitional era.
" "That's very original of you," she replies, dry as the Martini he is sipping.
They fight all the time It's fun What do I owe you? Let's start with an apology Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter.
" It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says, "and you can quote me on that," which sounds great in an English accent.
One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it another nine times.
When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there.
He doesn't complain that she's two hours late and there's nothing in the refrigerator.
When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.
When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking: as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

Written 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

Written by David Lehman |

Big Hair

 Ithaca, October 1993: Jorie went on a lingerie
tear, wanting to look like a moll
in a Chandler novel.
Dinner, consisting of three parts gin and one part lime juice cordial, was a prelude to her hair.
There are, she said, poems that can be written only when the poet is clad in black underwear.
But that's Jorie for you.
Always cracking wise, always where the action is, the lights, and the sexy lingerie.
Poems, she said, were meant to be written on the run, like ladders on the stockings of a gun moll at a bar.
Jorie had to introduce the other poet with the fabulous hair that night.
She'd have preferred to work out at the gym.
She'd have preferred to work out with Jim.
She'd have preferred to be anywhere but here, where young men gawked at her hair and old men swooned at the thought of her lingerie.
"If you've seen one, you've seen the moll," Jorie said when asked about C.
"Everything she's written is an imitation of E.
" Some poems can be written only when the poet has fortified herself with gin.
Others come easily to one as feckless as Moll Flanders.
Jorie beamed.
"It happened here," she said.
She had worn her best lingerie, and D.
made the expected pass at her.
"My hair was big that night, not that I make a fetish of hair, but some poems must not be written by bald sopranos.
" That night she lectured on lingerie to an enthusiastic audience of female gymnasts and gin- drinking males.
"Utopia," she said, "is nowhere.
" This prompted one critic to declare that, of them all, all the poets with hair, Jorie was the fairest moll.
The New York Times voted her "best hair.
" Iowa City was said to be the place where all aspiring poets went, their poems written on water, with blanks instead of words, a tonic of silence in the heart of noise, and a vision of lingerie in the bright morning -- the lingerie to be worn by a moll holding a tumbler of gin, with her hair wet from the shower and her best poems waiting to be written.

Written 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

Written by David Lehman |


 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.

Written by David Lehman |

October 12

 My bag was missing at the airport
"Just one bag?" "Yes, but it meant a lot to me"
I had seen the bartender before, but where?
"You didn't tell me you had been to Oxford"
"Yes, I was at Magdalen College for two years"
"What did you do there?" "Drugs.
" "Did you know that in Hindi the same word (kal, pronounced 'kull') means both yesterday and tomorrow?" "You don't say.
What'll you have?" "Bombay Martini straight up, with olives, very dry and very cold.
" "I like a man who knows what he wants" "Well, I'll tell you.
She was a handsome, self-assured woman, a practicing physician, 48, bright, in great shape, played tennis every Friday night, didn't drink, smoke, or take drugs, and was looking for a Romeo with brains.
So naturally I didn't phone her"