Three Poems by David Lehman

June 4

I said OK Joe what makes
this flower beautiful
what makes the flower
a flower he answered
right again as we walked
down Valentine Place past
the students and the nursing
home down the cobblestone
street leading to the bridge
above Six Mile Creek where
myrtle grows wild I wonder
why Milton said “ye myrtles
brown” when they’re green with
little purple buds in May

September 30

In two weeks it will be thirty-three years
since the fire in Alfred Leslie’s life
and nearly sixty years since
his first wife’s cousin was Pirandello’s
secretary, was he hard-of-hearing then too
yes but he discovered he could read lips one day
in the park when from fifty feet he heard
what the governess said to the boy he can
watch TV without the sound lucky man
who can see what he needs to hear
cut up and splice is his method
and when he makes a photo-silkscreen
print of a movie still of Richard Conte
chasing a murderer down a hill
in 1947 it’s as if he had taken the photo
himself and saved it from the fire

December 31

Tonight’s the night, as Woody Allen said of death
“I just don’t want to be there at the time”
having lived through War and Peace would one
be more likely or less likely to look out the window
and not see the Russian Revolution a red blazing ball
I never thought I’d see the Berlin Wall
collapse and end the history of the spy novel
but that, too, has happened the century ended
eight years ago a short century with three major global
wars (two hot, one cold) some days you feel 
you live in a museum but this isn’t one of them
this is a day for reading Wallace Stevens aloud
“The Bird with the Coppery, Keen Claws” and 
think of what a work associate said of Mr. Stevens
“Well, if you leave out his personal life, he was
a happy man” Joe is disappointed
that he can’t visit his cousins in New Jersey
but we won’t let our disappointment show or turn
to bitterness the disease of artists we just want
to look out the window and see the clouds
change shape and go in their direction