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September 20, 2021


The Art of Revision (a lament)
for all my teachers

Never title your poem
before it is written,
try switching
the penultimate stanza
with the first or maybe the second,
despite the urge to chat it up,
show, don’t tell,
sure, trust your reader but
if caught
harboring a despicable cliché
try a robust defense, after all,
who knows whom you might convince that this
is the One overused trite expression allowed in a lifetime,
check if your feminine endings
your masculine endings,
but please,
employ that anaphoric opening with
caution, traumatic memory
so often dismantles
a well intentioned metaphor when
one singular sensation kicks off an avalanche
of unintended associations
never dreamt of in your philosophy,
re-group, enjoy the brief respite
and charm of your fricative consonants,
breathe relief and delight into
the brilliant pauses
your line breaks have
unintentionally created,
note bene:
trochees, anapests dactyls, spondees,
commas, colons, em-dashes,
and if you really must, italics,
sip your lukewarm coffee
until you reach the dregs, then print, fold,
tuck your newly-hatched creation,
into an overstuffed desk drawer or
wherever cracker crumbs and
fragments of old cookies might lure
ants and flippety-winged pantry moths
to examine
half-baked stanzas while
indulging in a tasty nibble
to sustain their tiny selves
for the long journey to a puzzling conclusion.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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