By Philip Appleman b. 1926 Philip Appleman

I heard a child, a little under four years old, when asked what was meant by being in good spirits, answer, “It is laughing, talking, and kissing.”
—CHARLES DARWIN, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals


       Joy, when intense, leads to various purposeless   
       movements—to dancing about, clapping the   
       hands, stamping, etc.         —IBID.

You feel so good, you stop walking:
they swirl around you, racing the 6:15.
You bless them all with a smile
you cannot explain: they are suddenly
precious. You look around, with your alien eyes,   
at forty floors of windows where
they are laughing, talking, and kissing: you realize   
they are priceless. You feel them
under the pavement, riding the uptown express,   
straphanging bodies waving
like kelp, and you know
they are irreplaceable; you think of them   
all over town, bursting
with unused happiness, and you clap,
and clap again, and clapping, you sing
a song you thought you’d forgotten, and your waist
moves gently, like jonquils, and your hand   
catches her fingertips, and she smiles, her arms   
moving like willows,
and the fruitseller dances with apples,   
crying a musical language, and a girl   
with a bongo comes on with rhythm,   
her hips moving like wheatfields, and
the hardhats come up from the manholes,   
their bodies moving like jackhammers,   
and Chinese voices like windchimes   
sing to the women from San Juan
who gather around like palm trees, and the cops   
have cordoned the street and are dancing   
with women from Minnesota,
their thighs as seductive as seaweed;   
and you know that sooner or later
this had to happen: that somehow
it would all break out, all that pent-up
joy, and people would sing and hold hands,   
their bodies swerving like taxis,
and the music inside their heads
would fill the streets with dancing,
clapping hands, and stamping;
and you sing another chorus
of we,
hey, we,
yes, we,
I said we
are all
we’ve got.


       From the excitement of pleasure, the circulation   
       becomes more rapid, the eyes are bright, and   
       the colour of the face rises.                —IBID.

You’re sweating it out: the last time
it was never received;
it was lost in the files; sent   
to the wrong department.
If you get there by noon, surely
it will be all right; but the seconds
are deadly. At ten to twelve
You reach the office, and of course
there’s a line.
You inch along; at noon you touch
mahogany, and just as you feared, there is
some difficulty, a shuffling   
of papers: you feel
the invisible stars
swing through their long   
cold journey. Finally—
you can hardly believe it—
it’s there! the very thing! the thing itself!
and the holy rubber stamp   
falls like a benediction,
and you hear, above the ceiling,
the seraphim rejoicing,   
and you smooth your hair
and borrow a debonair manner
and step through the frosted door
so deliberately,
no one would ever guess
that right there under your shirt
the sun is dancing on water.

Philip Appleman, “Euphorias” from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996. Copyright © 1996 by Phillip Appleman. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press,

Source: New and Selected Poems 1956-1996 (University of Arkansas Press, 1996)

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Poet Philip Appleman b. 1926

Subjects Relationships, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Poet, novelist, editor, and Darwin expert Philip Appleman is known for his biting social commentary and masterful command of form. The author of numerous volumes of poetry, three novels, and half a dozen collections of prose, Appleman’s range of subject matter includes Darwin, politics, morality, and sex. Art Seidenbaum in the Los Angeles Times described Appleman’s second novel, Shame the Devil (1981) as entertaining and . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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