They were cheap but they were real,
the old bistros. You could have a meal,
drink the devil's own red wine, and contemplate
the sawdust on the floor, or fate,
as the full-fed beast kicked the empty pail.
The conspiracy of the second rate
continued to reverberate.
Everyone wanted to get his licks.
Everyone said it was a steal.
So the girl and I stayed out late.
We walked along the shore
and I campaigned some more.
And the city built with words not bricks
burned like a paper plate.
About this poem
"'Poem in the Modernist Manner' is from a book of poems in progress called 'Poems in the Manner Of.' I began writing the book 12 years ago-on the principle that when I write as if I were someone else, something good may happen. I have written poems in the manner of [C.P.] Cavafy, [Pablo] Neruda, [Charles] Baudelaire, [Friedrich] Holderlin, [Rainer Maria] Rilke, [W.H.] Auden, [Vladimir] Mayakovsky, Dorothy Parker, [Ralph Waldo] Emerson, [Emily] Dickinson, [W.B.] Yeats, [Robert] Frost, [Jorge Luis] Borges, [Charles] Bukowski, W.C. Williams, Robert Lowell and 'Wallace Stevens as rewritten by Gertrude Stein,' among others. 'Poem in the Modernist Manner' sneaks in allusions to Auden and [T.S.] Eliot, and the atmosphere and attitude owe something, I think, to the modernists of the [Ezra] Pound generation."
About David Lehman
David Lehman is the author of "New and Selected Poems" (Scribner, 2013). He teaches
poetry and literature in the New School Writing Program in New York City.
The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.
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(c) 2014 David Lehman. Originally published by the Academy of American Poets, www.poets.org. Distributed by King Features Syndicate