Ira Joel Haber  © 2006 All Rights Reserved

Featured Poet

David Lehman

 

Faith Popcorn

It was the fourth of Angst
without air-conditioning
and there was no other doctor
on the island where they
and she still had her
and wouldn’t cry until the bleeding
tell herself over and over
have another baby who will
pull her to safety like a drowning man
who pulls down his rescuer thinking
he’s pulling him to safety
in her dream it’s a comedy
in his life a turn in a correctional facility
in his dream a coed college dorm
with no doors in the toilet stalls
in her life a hospital where people go
who aren’t going to get well

* * *

“I, too have been famous. . .”

I, too, have been famous.
I was famous once.
There was a difference.

You were supposed to be famous.
You did the stunts.
You spoke the noblest utterance.

Somewhere ages and ages hence
my life may stand in a garden close
or sit on a New England fence
where face is unbruised to pleasure to nose.

For fame is no plant that grows
on glistering soil, or glows in glittering
foil, but flees like a nomad folding his tents
or buzzes like a bee around a ruby rose.

* * *


Poem in the Manner of a Medieval Love Song

Beautiful are thy coillons
and thy peerless quondom’s cum
with thy pennants on the boilon
when I erect my marble dumb.

Art breasts to all that please thee
or silk thy bodice as white
when tips shall touch to tease thee
or wield the scepter of night?

So beautiful are thy coillons
and thy rosebud’s aura true
when thy high flags fly I toil on
and stag thy quondom’s dew.

* * *


Antigone

Against brutal Creon,
doll establishes
fugitive greatness.
His internal
justice, knowledge
law mean nothing,
only piety.
Questing revenge,
she triumphs,
uttering virginal
wounds extravagant,
yearning’s zenith.

* * *

The Proof

O raven-haired Rebecca of tresses
cuter than the curls of blonde Rowena
in the Ivanhoe of my brain,
I love the taste of your jam
more than marmalade on my muffin
or the smell of Mary Jane
that brings me back to the jungle
when I lay with a woman in Saigon
on my day off the day Rick Patrick
took a bullet whose sister I had to visit
in Cleveland when I came back,
and you want to know why I hurt myself?
Why does anyone hurt himself?
To prove that he exists.

* * *

Summer Romance

“You’re giving me a complex,”
Electra joked. Plato was barking up the wrong ——
and sang in the wrong ——
but came the point of crisis in the song
and they felt free
and so did we
in the ensuing outbreak of oral ——
which we considered moral.

He knew her secret.
Why did she always find
it in the last place she looked?
It was a necessary prop, like a cigarette.
It was the nature of the beast
with two backs. What happened next
was a second round of oral ——
which some considered abnormal.

Life with Electra was a brilliant quarrel
or a chase scene ending in the wrecks
of both cars, hers and his, after they sinned.
She got to choose between her ex
and his why. But that was the least
of her concerns in the wind
(one puff and you’re hooked)
where reality was a province of the mind. 

All Poems Copyright © 2006

DAVID LEHMAN is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005). Two of his books, The Daily Mirror (2000) and The Evening Sun (2002), reflect the adventure of writing a poem a day, a practice he maintained for nearly five years. In collaboration with James Cummins, he has written a book of sestinas, Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man (Soft Skull Press, 2006). In 1988, Lehman launched The Best American Poetry and he continues as series editor of this distinguished annual anthology. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Great American Prose Poems (2003). He has written such nonfiction books as The Perfect Murder (about murder mysteries) and The Last Avant-Garde (about the New York School of poets). He is poetry coordinator of the graduate writing program at the New School in New York City.

 

from Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art

poet David Lehman

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855 edition)
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems
Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems
W. H. Auden, Collected Poems
Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations
Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus
Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
Henri Michaux, Selected Poems
Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems
Frank O’Hara, Meditations in an Emergency
Kenneth Koch, Thank You and Other Poems
John Ashbery, The Mooring of Starting Out

        

In making this list I have tried to be faithful to my recollection of the books that meant the most to me when I began to write poetry. Each of these titles made me want to write poems or gave me ideas for writing or taught me specific techniques that I could make my own.
           In college, if asked to name a favorite poem, I might have said Eliot’s “The Waste Land” or Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” In graduate school I might have opted for Stevens’ “The Snow Man,” Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone,” or Ashbery’s “The Skaters.” In my thirties I would have unhesitatingly declared Milton’s “Lycidas” to be the greatest single poem in the language. Today? Well, Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” still brings tears to my eyes when I recite it, and Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is sublime. Do I have to choose?


 

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