"November 18"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 19 2002 10:34 AM

November 18

Listen to David Lehman reading this poem.

It's Johnny Mercer's birthday
from Natchez to Mobile
in the cool cool cool of the evening
very cool with Barbara Lee
singing Marian McPartland playing
the greatest revenge songs of all time
hooray and hallelujah
you had it comin' to ya
and a bottle of Rodenbach
Alexander red ale from Belgium
with cherries and "Tangerine" in
the background in Double Indemnity
he had a feel for the lingo, "Jeepers Creepers"
as Bing Crosby sang it on my birthday
in 1956 I just played it three straight times
and an all-American sense of humor what does
Jonah say in the belly of the whale he says man
we better accentuate the positive that's it
happy birthday and thanks for the cheer
I hope you didn't mind my bending your ear

David Lehman is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. He won the 2010 Deems Taylor Award from ASCAP for his book A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs. He teaches in the graduate writing program at the New School in New York City.