Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Good List, by Brad Leithauser

A Good List
(Homage to Lorenz Hart)

Some nights, can't sleep, I draw up a list,
   Of everything I've never done wrong.
To look at me now, you might insist
   My list could hardly be long,
But I've stolen no gnomes from my neighbor’s yard,
Nor struck his dog, backing out my car.
Never ate my way up and down the Loire
   On a stranger's credit card.

I've never given a cop the slip,
   Stuffed stiffs in a gravel quarry,
Or silenced Cub Scouts on a first camping trip
   With an unspeakable ghost story.
Never lifted a vase from a museum foyer,
Or rifled a Turkish tourist's backpack.
Never cheated at golf. Or slipped out a blackjack
   And flattened a patent lawyer.

I never forged a lottery ticket,
   Took three on a two-for-one pass,
Or, as a child, toasted a cricket
   With a magnifying glass.
I never said "air" to mean "err," or obstructed
Justice, or defrauded a securities firm.
Never mulcted—so far as I understand the term.
   Or unjustly usufructed.

I never swindled a widow of all her stuff
   By means of a false deed and title
Or stood up and shouted, My God, that's enough!
   At a nephew’s piano recital.
Never practiced arson, even as a prank,
Brightened church-suppers with off-color jokes,
Concocted an archeological hoax—
   Or dumped bleach in a goldfish tank.

Never smoked opium. Or smuggled gold
   Across the Panamanian Isthmus.
Never hauled back and knocked a rival out cold,
   Or missed a family Christmas.
Never borrowed a book I intended to keep.
. . . My list, once started, continues to grow,
Which is all for the good, but just goes to show
   It's the good who do not sleep.

Today, an homage to a great American lyricist. The poem falls in the "Curves" section of Brad Leithauser's latest collection, whose fascinating organizing principle (and title) is Curves and Angles—the curves being the curves of the body, the fluid shapes of human concerns; the angles, the cooler, less flexible lines of the inanimate world. - The Borzoi Reader, Poem-A-Day

1 comment:

Marie said...

Interesting poem Allison. I enjoyed it. One has to wonder though . . . are these things he's been tempted to do and then chickened out of doing? It's a mystery how the mind works. I've been to more than a few concerts in my life that I wanted to shout out "enough already!" halfway through! XXOO