David Lehman

On Friendship, Haiku, Lust, and Blame
September 11, 2014 Lehman David

On Friendship, Haiku, Lust, and Blame

 

Eye of hurricane,

or all-seeing bug on top

of lean apple tree,

 

look at me and think,

this is life this wait this day

in haiku heaven

 

with my friend you: why

miss writing our haikus when

we can write new ones

 

and live within them

as the guest hosts of a late

night talk show you hear

 

from the room next door

to yours in no-sleep motels

full of books, the books

 

we want to write, you

and I, alone together

for the first time since

 

the night when we walked

and solved riddling brainteasers

on Riverside Drive.

 

* * *

 

I, too, love moon sex,

dream tigers, split insights, and

spiritual puns.

 

Spiritual puns

are coincidences, said

G. K. Chesterton.

 

Can haiku do the work

of a spiritual pun?

Strangers meet on train.

 

One kills the other’s

wife and wants his own father

killed by the other.

 

Or the survivor

sleeps with the victim’s widow

after killing him.

 

Both Alfred Hitchcock

and Sophocles believe in

spiritual puns.

 

* *  *

 

Rhyme in haiku seems

contrary to the spirit

of the Eastern mind.

 

That must be why I

do it though of course you’re right

I shouldn’t. And so night

 

falls as it must on

us all, and to bed must I

go, to sleep, to dream,

 

and not to die. O

friend it pleases me to write

these haiku with you.

 

* * *

 

Blame not my blood so

hot with lust as when I was

young and in college,

 

studying Spenser,

“The Garden of Adonis”

in The Faerie Queene,

 

which had the oddest

effect on me: I went to

the library and

 

picked up Kathy and

took her back to her place and

later that night we went

 

to the West End Bar

and pretended to quarrel

over the baby

 

that we didn’t have

which freaked out the other

couple in the booth

 

so we had it all

to ourselves. Blame not my youth;

her hormones blame not.

 

Blame not the future

or lament that we are old.

The best is yet to

 

be, said Rabbi Ben

Ezra in Browning’s poem.

It’s hard to agree.

 

Yet blame him not, though

blame enough there is for all

the sins we have cast

 

upon the waters.

Blame not the bread we flung in

the Hudson River.

David Lehman’s recent books are Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World and Poems in the Manner Of. He teaches in the MFA writing program of the New School in New York City.