Vol. 112 (2021)

Ten New Poems by David Lehman




David Lehman's impact on poetry in America as a poet, an editor, a literary critic and an educator cannot be underestimated. His highly influential series, The Best American Poetry, founded by him in 1988, is the driving force and the glue that keeps the lantern lit for American poets as they progress in their careers. 

His Oxford Book of American Poetry is an unparalleled classic and his personal output as a poet has been collected and published by Scribners, Princeton University Press,  Doubleday,  the University of Michigan Press, and the University of Pittsburgh Press, among others. 

His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award. 

His most recent book of poetry, The Morning Line, was released this past fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay Thirsty Magazine is honored to present the following ten, never-before-published, original poems by David Lehman and to continue our special relationship with him that began with a Conversation in the Fall 2014 edition of our magazine.

From my work-in-progress, which will reflect my practice 

of writing a poem every day since August 1, 2020. 

                                            -- David Lehman on the following ten poems.




(June 12, 2021)


Mudcat Grant died today

possessor of one of the great baseball monikers

victor in game six of the 1965 World Series

the year Koufax refused to pitch game one

because Yom Kippur fell on that day

and did more for Judaism with that one gesture than

even Harry Belafonte singing Hava Negilla,

but I stray from the point,

the passing of Jim “Mudcat” Grant

who won twenty games that season,

and even though he pitched for the opposition

I couldn’t help admiring him

on the mound on the day before

Koufax shut out the Twins on two days’ rest



The Master of Gamblers (II)

(June 23, 2021)


You begin with a title,

“The Master of Gamblers”

by Caravaggio,

and you run with the idea,

the words, not the painting:

a school for gamblers

with majors in casino

(roulette, poker, blackjack)

and track management,

the stock market,

and the aesthetics

of athletics (the next big thing)

with required readings

in Pascal, Baudelaire,

Dostoyevsky and

mandatory viewings

of Guys and Dolls

and The Cincinnati Kid.



The French Revolution

(July 15, 2021)


The French Revolution

still leads the league

with the Russian Revolution

a distant second

and the gap is widening

as the Jacobins stage an uprising

while the Russians renounce the Soviet idea

(except for the KGB)

and we wonder: can we expect

dictators along the lines of Napoleon before long,

and what about Metternich and the Congress of Vienna?




(July 17, 2021)


“You had a mentor,”

Stacey said. “I had a tormentor,

which can also be good for you

in the long run

in some crazy Karma-centric way

if it doesn’t give you cancer.”



Mahler’s Second: The Scherzo

for Jamie Katz

(July 22, 2021)


The E-flat clarinet in the scherzo

And the music glides away.

The interruption of a fanfare

Announces the revolution

Not in America or Europe

But in the sublime heights of longing.

You hear it just once and then return

To your fairy-tale life. The heart

Ticks too fast for the chest that lodges it,

And the dancers you see in the window,

Holding their partners as in a forties flick,

Dance to music you cannot hear.

And then breaks the wave.



Eyes Like Jewels

(July 25, 2021)


Living with Johnny Dog Lehman,

an old man gets to feel like a young father,

admiring the boy’s natural instincts

and his amiable personality, urges, needs,

unselfconscious as he takes a treat

like a treasure to a favorite spot

on the carpet, or when he stares at me

at night, his eyes ablaze like jewels.

And the sun never sets but he gets

the most aromatic pleasure

in an inch of grass.



Mahler’s Jubilation

(August 9, 2021)


When they’re certain no one’s watching,

the flowers wave like pennants

in the stadium’s warm breeze;

the beasts stop what they’re doing

and listen; then the dogs leap and frolic,

and the cellos of summer take over;

the birds atop the tallest white pines,

black walnuts, Eastern red cedars

and Japanese maples sing the chorus,

and spears of grass dance in glee as if they knew

life beyond death because death precedes life,

an epiphany absent of human logic;

and banished is the sadness

that returns when we awake.



A Pride of Lions

(August 10, 2021)


A pride of lions beats a murder of crows,

An unkindness of ravens, a bevy of bees.


The words say one thing:

A pride of lions is a celebration of the month;

An unkindness of ravens the title for a murder mystery;

A bevy of bees buzzes on the body

Of the beautiful actress posing for a shot.


Meanwhile, the yellow-jackets gather

Around the fallen sparrow

That broke its neck smashing into the window.



Black Mood

(August 24, 2021)


Sometimes a black mood comes over you

For no reason whatever.

Then you think about it

And you know there are reasons aplenty.


If you were asked you could make a list:

Secular (Afghanistan), personal (toothache),

Professional (the poetry racket), the disloyalty

Of a so-called friend, the cruelty of an ex-boss.


But the truth is you’re in a black mood

Because that’s the way it is,

And if you were happy it would be despite

That long list of grievances,


Because you sneaked a look in the mirror

Before popping a needed pill

And you know there’s no good reason,

And now for the reading of the will.




(August 26, 2021)


The day begins with a headache and two men on base

In the tenth inning. Swing and a miss, oh and two.

“Tipsy” is a word that sounds bubbly as it should

Unlike “drunk,” “stinking” or even “plastered,”

None of which are non-judgmental,

So naturally, when I’m on a bender or a spree,

At midnight I admit my bateau is ivre,

And I had better drink another quart of lemonade,

My hangover remedy from way back,

Mixed with ginger beer, Perrier, and a lot of ice,

Plus a good night’s sleep, with a base hit to center field

To win the game in the sixteenth inning,

And a visit from my mother.




David Lehman    

A Conversation with Poet and Editor David Lehman - Stay Thirsty Magazine (Fall 2014)



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.