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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.

Leaving Things Unfinished

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, 

even after the first white pill, 
you will not surrender, 
for back there somewhere, 
safe from the hovering vultures, 
is that sketchy 
grand design, that revolution 
on the drawing board—no, 

all these years you've resisted 
that sleek seducer, Completion—and now, 
as the mask snugs over your face, you feel 
your legs go young again, heading out 
for the shimmering palm trees 
they will never reach, 
and you suck in great welcome gulps 
of the endlessly possible.

Copyright © 2003 by Philip Appleman. Reprinted from the Paris Review. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2003 by Philip Appleman. Reprinted from the Paris Review. 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

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
"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