David Lehman


Poem Not in the Manner of Anybody

"It's a free country."
That's what we used to say
when we disagreed with somebody
and didn't want to argue.
When we went to Washington,
I asked the doorman whether
the parking at the hotel was free
for guests. "Only the air is free
in Washington," he told me.
I was fifteen and went back to tell
my father and mother waiting
in the car. This was before
the invention of microwave ovens,
red states, supply side economics,
detente, Glasnost, the gentrification
of Columbus Avenue, the LBO,
the IPO, the cult of the CEO,
stagflation, house husbands, free
agents, touch-tone phones, coed
dorms, blotter acid, acid reflux,
poker tournaments on cable TV,
herpes, critical theory, group therapy,
Botox, chick lit, Bud light, the blackout
of 1965, the pre-nup, the post-op
photo op, the market crash of 1987,
the bursting of the tech bubble
thirteen years later, Alzheimer's,
the compulsory colonoscopy, the slaying
of the Scarsdale diet doc, identity theft,
the SUV, VCR, KFC, CNN, HMO, air
and water pollution on a scale unforeseen
by 60s sociologists, Chernobyl,
and the emergence of "awesome" as
the all-purpose exclamation of choice.
And when I want to dodge an argument
I still think of what the doorman
said before I smile and say,
"It's a free country."





The Kiss

Love is never satisfied. An unperfumed woman
Who comes from everywhere
To the same shower, her chestnut hair
In the air, waving, becomes aware

Of the eyes of a man who covets her
With the lust of a man for his neighbor's wife
And banishes the fantasy. It is the clean moment
Before children clutter up the house

After the house came into being
With bedroom walls on which you can read
The handwriting of the past, and not understand it.
It is winter. The shades are drawn.

The world is waiting. The love
Of a man for his father becomes
The love of a son for his son. And the woman
Asleep in the morning of her bedroom.






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.