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Philip Appleman

1926–

Born in Indiana on February 8, 1926, Philip Appleman served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and in the Merchant Marine after the war. He has degrees from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Lyon, France.

His most recent collection, Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie (W. W. Norton, 2009) is a collaboration with the illustrator Arnold Roth. In the foreword to the book, X. J. Kennedy describes the poems as "hilarious, technically dazzling poetic flights."

His other acclaimed books of poetry include New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996 (1996); Let There Be Light (1991); Darwin's Bestiary (1986); Open Doorwarys (1976); and Summer Love and Surf (1968). He is also the author of three novels, including Apes and Angels (Putnam, 1989); and six volumes of nonfiction, including the Norton Critical Edition, Darwin (1970).

Appleman has taught at Columbia University, SUNY Purchase, and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has also served on the Governing Board of the Poetry Society of America and the Poets Advisory Board of Poets House.

His many awards include a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and both the Castagnola Award and the Morley Award from the Poetry Society of America.

He lives with his wife, the playwright Marjorie Appleman, in New York City and Pompano Beach, Florida.

Philip Appleman
Photo credit: Jill Krementz

By This Poet

3

Arts & Sciences

"Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education." —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here's a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I'm convex. BOTANY Your thighs always blossomed like orchids, You had rose hips when we danced, But the question that always baffled me was: How can I get into those plants? ECONOMICS Diversification's a virtue, And as one of its multiple facets, when we're merging, it really won't hurt you To share your disposable assets. GEOGRAPHY Russian you would be deplorable, But your Lapland is simply Andorrable So my Hungary fantasy understands Why I can't keep my hands off your Netherlands. LIT. SURVEY Alexander composed like the Pope, Swift was of course never tardy, And my Longfellow's Wildest hope Is to find you right next to my Hardy. PHYSICS If E is how eager I am for you, And m is your marvelous body, And c means the caring I plan for you, Then E = Magna Cum Laude. MUSIC APPRECIATION You're my favorite tune, my symphony, So please do me this favor: Don't ever change, not even a hemi- Demi-semiquaver. ART APPRECIATION King Arthur, betrayed by Sir Lancelot, Blamed the poets who'd praised him, and spake: "That knight's nights are in the Queen's pantsalot, So from now on your art's for Art's sake." ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM I couldn’t do Goyas or Grecos, And my Rembrandts had zero panache, But after I junked all my brushes, My canvases made quite a splash. PHILOSOPHY 1. Blaise Pascal Pascal, reflecting tearfully On our wars for the Holy Pigeon, Said, "Alas, we do evil most cheerfully When we do it for religion." 2. René Descartes The unruly dactyls and anapests Were thumping their wild dithyrambic When Descartes with a scowl very sternly stressed: "I think, therefore iambic!" 3. Thomas Hobbes Better at thinking than loving, He deserved his wife's retort: On their wedding night, she told him, "Tom, That was nasty, brutish – and short!"

Five Easy Prayers for Pagans

1. 
  
O Karma, Dharma, pudding & pie,
gimme a break before I die: 
grant me wisdom, will, & wit, 
purity, probity, pluck, & grit. 
Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, 
gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind. 
And forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice - 
these little blessings would suffice 
to beget an earthly paradise: 
make the bad people good 
and the good people nice, 
and before our world goes over the brink, 
teach the believers how to think. 
 

2. 
  
O Venus, Cupid, Aphrodite, 
teach us Thy horsepower lingam, Thy firecracker yoni. 
Show us Thy hundreds of sacred & tingling positions, 
each orifice panting for every groping tumescence. 
O lead us into the back rooms of silky temptation 
and deliver us over to midnights of trembling desire. 
But before all the nectar & honey leak out of this planet, 
give us our passion in marble, commitment in granite. 
 
          
3.
          
O Shiva, relentless Spirit of Outrage: 
in this vale of tearful True Believers, 
teach us to repeat again and again: 
No, your Reverences, we will not serve 
your Gross National Voodoo, your Church 
Militant – we will not flatter the double faces 
of those who pray in the Temple of 
Incendiary Salvation. 
Gentle Preserver, preserve the pure irreverence 
of our stubborn minds. 
Target the priests, Implacable Destroyer – 
and hire a lawyer. 

              
4.

O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed 
by everyone, yet boast more true disciples 
than all other gods together, 
Thou whose eerie sheen 
gleameth from Corporate Headquarters 
and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou 
whose glittering eye impales us 
in the X-ray vision of plastic surgeons, 
the golden leer of televangelists, 
the star-spangled gloat of politicos – 
O Mammon, come down to us in the form 
of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, 
yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, 
those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet 
Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts – for 
unto the least of these Thy supplicants 
art Thou welcome in all Thy many forms. But 
when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry – 
use the service entry. 

               
5.

O flaky Goddess of Fortune, we beseech Thee: 
in the random thrust of Thy fluky favor, vector 
the luminous lasers of Thy shifty eyes 
down upon these, Thy needy & oh-so-deserving 
petitioners.  Bend down to us the sexy 
curve of Thine indifferent ear, and hear 
our passionate invocation: let Thy lovely, 
lying lips murmur to us the news 
of all our true-false guesses A-OK, 
our firm & final offers come up rainbows, 
our hangnails & hang-ups & hangovers suddenly zapped, 
and then, O Goddess, give us your slippery word 
that the faithless Lady Luck will hang around 
in our faithful love, friendships less fickle than youth, 
and a steady view of our world in its barefoot truth.

Leaving Things Unfinished

As the black wings close in on you, 
their circling shadows blighting the sand, 
and your limp legs buckle, far 
from that shimmering oasis 
on the horizon, 

as you face the implacable, 
hoping for one more lucky reprieve 
which you feel in your quivering heart 
will arrive a moment too late, 

still, 
even after the first white pill, 
you will not surrender, 
for back there somewhere, 
safe from the hovering vultures, 
is that sketchy 
grand design, that revolution 
on the drawing board—no, 

all these years you've resisted 
that sleek seducer, Completion—and now, 
as the mask snugs over your face, you feel 
your legs go young again, heading out 
for the shimmering palm trees 
they will never reach, 
and you suck in great welcome gulps 
of the endlessly possible.

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