The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke

By David Lehman b. 1948 David Lehman
Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence, breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes; transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris; knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.

David Lehman, "The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke" from An Alternative to Speech, published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © 1986 by David Lehman.  Reprinted by permission of Writers' Representatives, Inc..

Source: An Alternative to Speech (Princeton University Press, 1986)

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Poet David Lehman b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Activities, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

 David  Lehman


One of the foremost editors, literary critics, and anthologists of contemporary American literature, David Lehman is also one of its most accomplished poets. Born in New York City in 1948, Lehman earned a PhD from Columbia University and attended the University of Cambridge as a Kellett Fellow. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Yeshiva Boys (2009), When a Woman Loves a Man (2005); and The Evening . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Activities, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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