January 1

by David Lehman

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Some people confuse inspiration with lightning
not me I know it comes from the lungs and air
you breathe it in you breathe it out it circulates
it’s the breath of my being the wind across the face
of the waters yes but it’s also something that comes
at my command like a turkey club sandwich
with a cup of split pea soup or like tones
from Benny Goodman’s clarinet my clarinet
the language that never fails to respond
some people think you need to be pure of heart
not true it comes to the pure and impure alike
the patient and impatient the lovers the onanists
and the virgins you just need to be able to listen
and talk at the same time and you’ll hear it like
the long-delayed revelation at the end of the novel
which turns out to be something simple a traumatic
moment that fascinated us more when it was only
a fragment an old song a strange noise a mistake
in hearing a phone that wouldn’t stop ringing


This poem is from The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry  (Scribner, 2000)

David Lehman lives in New York City. Earlier collections include Valentine Place (1996), The Daily Mirror (2000), and When a Woman Loves a Man (2005).  He is series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988, and is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry.

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