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About this poet

Born in Indiana on February 8, 1926, Philip Appleman served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and in the Merchant Marine after the war. He has degrees from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Lyon, France.

His most recent collection, Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie (W. W. Norton, 2009) is a collaboration with the illustrator Arnold Roth. In the foreword to the book, X. J. Kennedy describes the poems as "hilarious, technically dazzling poetic flights."

His other acclaimed books of poetry include New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996 (1996); Let There Be Light (1991); Darwin's Bestiary (1986); Open Doorwarys (1976); and Summer Love and Surf (1968). He is also the author of three novels, including Apes and Angels (Putnam, 1989); and six volumes of nonfiction, including the Norton Critical Edition, Darwin (1970).

Appleman has taught at Columbia University, SUNY Purchase, and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has also served on the Governing Board of the Poetry Society of America and the Poets Advisory Board of Poets House.

His many awards include a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and both the Castagnola Award and the Morley Award from the Poetry Society of America.

He lives with his wife, the playwright Marjorie Appleman, in New York City and Pompano Beach, Florida.

Five Easy Prayers for Pagans

O Karma, Dharma, pudding & pie,
gimme a break before I die: 
grant me wisdom, will, & wit, 
purity, probity, pluck, & grit. 
Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, 
gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind. 
And forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice - 
these little blessings would suffice 
to beget an earthly paradise: 
make the bad people good 
and the good people nice, 
and before our world goes over the brink, 
teach the believers how to think. 

O Venus, Cupid, Aphrodite, 
teach us Thy horsepower lingam, Thy firecracker yoni. 
Show us Thy hundreds of sacred & tingling positions, 
each orifice panting for every groping tumescence. 
O lead us into the back rooms of silky temptation 
and deliver us over to midnights of trembling desire. 
But before all the nectar & honey leak out of this planet, 
give us our passion in marble, commitment in granite. 
O Shiva, relentless Spirit of Outrage: 
in this vale of tearful True Believers, 
teach us to repeat again and again: 
No, your Reverences, we will not serve 
your Gross National Voodoo, your Church 
Militant – we will not flatter the double faces 
of those who pray in the Temple of 
Incendiary Salvation. 
Gentle Preserver, preserve the pure irreverence 
of our stubborn minds. 
Target the priests, Implacable Destroyer – 
and hire a lawyer. 


O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed 
by everyone, yet boast more true disciples 
than all other gods together, 
Thou whose eerie sheen 
gleameth from Corporate Headquarters 
and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou 
whose glittering eye impales us 
in the X-ray vision of plastic surgeons, 
the golden leer of televangelists, 
the star-spangled gloat of politicos – 
O Mammon, come down to us in the form 
of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, 
yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, 
those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet 
Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts – for 
unto the least of these Thy supplicants 
art Thou welcome in all Thy many forms. But 
when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry – 
use the service entry. 


O flaky Goddess of Fortune, we beseech Thee: 
in the random thrust of Thy fluky favor, vector 
the luminous lasers of Thy shifty eyes 
down upon these, Thy needy & oh-so-deserving 
petitioners.  Bend down to us the sexy 
curve of Thine indifferent ear, and hear 
our passionate invocation: let Thy lovely, 
lying lips murmur to us the news 
of all our true-false guesses A-OK, 
our firm & final offers come up rainbows, 
our hangnails & hang-ups & hangovers suddenly zapped, 
and then, O Goddess, give us your slippery word 
that the faithless Lady Luck will hang around 
in our faithful love, friendships less fickle than youth, 
and a steady view of our world in its barefoot truth.

Copyright © 1998 by Philip Appleman. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1998 by Philip Appleman. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Philip Appleman

Philip Appleman

Born in Indiana in 1926, Philip Appleman served in the U.S. Army

by this poet

"Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education." —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here's a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I'm convex. BOTANY Your thighs

As the black wings close in on you, 
their circling shadows blighting the sand, 
and your limp legs buckle, far 
from that shimmering oasis 
on the horizon, 

as you face the implacable, 
hoping for one more lucky reprieve 
which you feel in your quivering heart 
will arrive a moment too late,