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June poems by David Lehman

From the founder and series editor of The Best American Poetry series

  • 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
  • June 11
  • It’s my birthday I’ve got an empty
  • stomach and the desire to be
  • lazy in the hammock and maybe
  • go for a cool swim on a hot day
  • with the trombone in Sinatra’s
  • “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
  • in my head and then to break for
  • lunch a corned-beef sandwich and Pepsi
  • with plenty of ice cubes unlike France
  • where they put one measly ice cube
  • in your expensive Coke and when
  • you ask for more they argue with
  • you they say this way you get more
  • Coke for the money showing they
  • completely misunderstand the nature of
  • American soft drinks which are an
  • excuse for ice cubes still I wouldn’t
  • mind being there for a couple of
  • days Philip Larkin’s attitude
  • toward China comes to mind when
  • asked if he’d like to go there he said
  • yes if he could return the same day
  • June 19
  • What is it about the Abyss 
  • that tempts the young poet to kiss 
  • the air and head for the nearest cliff? This 
  • unreasonable attachment to the bliss 
  • of falling -- what accounts for it? Unlike the hiss 
  • announcing a reptilian presence, the word Abyss 
  • creates the object of our dread: it exists, it is, 
  • widening like the gulf between whis- 
  • key and wine, and we, drunk on neither, miss 
  • the days when we, too, tumbled headlong out of heaven, pissed
David Lehman

David Lehman (b. 1948) is an American poet, journalists and literary critic best known for being the founder and series editor of The Best American Poetry series (1988 to present). As a freelance writer, he has published 16 volumes of verse and several works of non-fiction, including critical studies of poets John Ashbery and James Merrill — and an appraisal of the works and days of Frank Sinatra.

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  • 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
  • June 11
  • It’s my birthday I’ve got an empty
  • stomach and the desire to be
  • lazy in the hammock and maybe
  • go for a cool swim on a hot day
  • with the trombone in Sinatra’s
  • “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
  • in my head and then to break for
  • lunch a corned-beef sandwich and Pepsi
  • with plenty of ice cubes unlike France
  • where they put one measly ice cube
  • in your expensive Coke and when
  • you ask for more they argue with
  • you they say this way you get more
  • Coke for the money showing they
  • completely misunderstand the nature of
  • American soft drinks which are an
  • excuse for ice cubes still I wouldn’t
  • mind being there for a couple of
  • days Philip Larkin’s attitude
  • toward China comes to mind when
  • asked if he’d like to go there he said
  • yes if he could return the same day
  • June 19
  • What is it about the Abyss 
  • that tempts the young poet to kiss 
  • the air and head for the nearest cliff? This 
  • unreasonable attachment to the bliss 
  • of falling -- what accounts for it? Unlike the hiss 
  • announcing a reptilian presence, the word Abyss 
  • creates the object of our dread: it exists, it is, 
  • widening like the gulf between whis- 
  • key and wine, and we, drunk on neither, miss 
  • the days when we, too, tumbled headlong out of heaven, pissed
David Lehman

David Lehman (b. 1948) is an American poet, journalists and literary critic best known for being the founder and series editor of The Best American Poetry series (1988 to present). As a freelance writer, he has published 16 volumes of verse and several works of non-fiction, including critical studies of poets John Ashbery and James Merrill — and an appraisal of the works and days of Frank Sinatra.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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