Slate Poem: “The Escape Artist”

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This week’s featured poem from Slate is entitled The Escape Artist and it’s written by David Lehman. As always, here is a friendly reminder that Slate offers you an audio version of their featured poem read by the actual poet! I think this is pretty special and everyone could use some poetry in their day. So why not take a few moments and listen to Lehman read his poem?

According to his webpage on, David Lehman has written many collections of poetry. His books include When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005), The Evening Sun (2002), Operation Memory (1990), and An Alternative to Speech (1986). He is also series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988, and is general editor of the University of Michigan Press’s Poets on Poetry Series. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is on the core faculty of the graduate writing programs at the New School and New York University.

The Escape Artistby David Lehman

A dark green room: the experiment fails,
And the leaves change color before their time.
He felt, though he had not committed a crime,
Like a gangster disguised in a top hat and tails,

Entering the lady’s East Village apartment
To seduce her. If he should arrive out of breath,
It’s because he knows that Eros equals death,
Though that’s not what the church fathers meant.

She called him a romantic fool, but she didn’t mean
To make him feel bad. She just wanted to love him
In the attic, where the lights had grown dim.
Yet the darkness was green, however drab the scene,

Where danger took the stranger, and the heroine
In his arms was someone he had met before,
In a novel about a murderer and a whore,
And didn’t expect to meet again

In the seedy familiar hotel room with the bullets flying
All around them. They were busy dying,
But the imaginary spies of childhood were still spying
On them, the sinful and tormented ones,

Hungry for ordinary corrupt human love, and bound
To turn up wherever a lively crisis could be found:
A lost breed, the sort of chap who knew all about guns,
Having used them for Russian Roulette, and won.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s poem from Slate. For more of these, check out the archives!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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