The Breeder’s Cup

By David Lehman b. 1948 David Lehman

They cannot keep the peace
or their hands off each other,
breed not yet preach
the old discredited creed.

Love is charity conceived
as a coin dropped
in a beggar’s cup.
Reason not the need.

Gluttony is no nicer than greed
or wrath, but lust
is our categorical must.
We have no choice but to breed.

Olympia lies on her couch
with an insolent stare,
her hand hiding her crotch,
a flower in her hair.

She splits the lot of us with a sneer:
we are either breeders or queer.
We will fight wars because of her.
She will root us on. We will win.

The face in the mirror is not brave,
but we crave contact with her skin
and the jewel in the mouth of her cave.
She tempts like a sin

and under her spell we fall
into a deep enchanted sleep,
and wake up ready to make the leap,
ready to heed her call,

only now we’re alone,
on streets less friendly than wilderness,
a platoon of ex-pals in Manhattan.
Olympia tempts like a sin,

but then sends us home to the wife,
commands us to resume the life
we had planned to give up in her honor:
the life of a dutiful husband, a modest success

in his profession, impressive
in credentials, in mood depressive
(but nothing that a pill won’t cure).
You ask if he is happy? “Sure.”

And Olympia lies on her couch,
with her insolent stare,
her hand hiding her crotch,
a flower in her hair.

Source: Poetry (April 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2012
 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Life Choices, Time & Brevity, Love, Desire

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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