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David Lehman
David Lehman
David Lehman was born in New York City in 1948. He graduated...
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Music
A Book Of Music
by Jack Spicer
A Score for Tourist Movies
by Mary Austin Speaker
A Violin at Dusk
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music
by John Dryden
B-Sides from my Idol Tryouts
by Harmony Holiday
Beagle or Something
by April Bernard
Fiddler Jones
by Edgar Lee Masters
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
Here and Now
by Stephen Dunn
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio
by Carl Sandburg
Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
by John Donne
Hymn to the Night
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Interlude: Still Still
by Robin Behn
Latin & Soul
by Victor Hernández Cruz
Little Fugue
by Marianne Boruch
Lost Fugue for Chet
by Lynda Hull
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
Mozart
by Caroline Knox
Ode to Lil’ Kim in Florence
by Barbara Hamby
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
Passing Through Albuquerque
by John Balaban
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Record
by Katrina Vandenberg
Street Music
by Robert Pinsky
The Banjo Player
by Fenton Johnson
The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974
by Quincy Troupe
The Everyday Enchantment of Music
by Mark Strand
The Guitar
by Federico García Lorca
The Last Evening
by Steven Kronen
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Supremes
by Mark Jarman
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes
The World Doesn’t Want Me Anymore, and It Doesn’t Know It
by Sean Singer
Two Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance
by John Cage, read by Susan Howe
Untitled
by David Meltzer
Water Music
by Robert Creeley
Poems about Time
Figure
by Marjorie Welish
from Oracles for Youth
by Caroline Gilman
In Betweenness
by Pierre Joris
Individual Time
by Alice Notley
Manifest Destiny
by Cynthia Lowen
Meeting and Passing
by Robert Frost
Mimosa
by Mary Ruefle
On Time
by John Milton
Paper Swallow
by Stanley Moss
Poem with Lines from Pierre Reverdy
by Sandra Simonds
Real Time
by Charlie Smith
Slur
by Jacek Gutorow
Song of Quietness
by Robinson Jeffers
The Edges of Time
by Kay Ryan
The Moon in Time Lapse
by David Rivard
The Sun-Dial
by Adelaide Crapsey
Thief
by Sally Van Doren
Time does not bring relief (Sonnet II)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
To a Young Girl at a Window
by Margaret Widdemer
What God Knew
by Marianne Boruch
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08/22/08

 
by David Lehman

Today in 1862
Claude Debussy was born.
I remember where I was and what I was doing
one hundred years and two months later:
elementary algebra, trombone practice,
Julius Caesar on the record player
with Brando as Antony, simple
buttonhook patterns in football,
the French subjunctive, and the use
of "quarantine" rather than "blockade"
during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It was considered the less belligerent word.
Much was made of it in 1962,
centenary of Debussy’s birth.
And if today I play his Rhapsody
for Saxophone and Orchestra

for the ten minutes it requires of
my undivided attention, who will attack me for
living in Paris in 1908 instead of now?
Let them. I'll take my stand,
my music stand, with the composer
of my favorite Danse Tarantelle.
About this poem:

"I wrote the first draft of this poem in 2008, on Claude Debussy’s birthday, August 22. Thus the title's numerical symmetry: '08/22/08.' The logic of mathematics suggested the leap from 1862, the year of Debussy’s birth, to his centenary year of 1962, then back to the present and forth to 1908—the present minus 100 years—with Debussy at work on his saxophone rhapsody. Time, then, is the subject. But time plus numbers are two thirds of the way to music, and Debussy’s music gets the last word, as it should."

—David Lehman






Copyright © 2013 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 22, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.
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