Next Line, Please

Bliss is Momentary in the Mind

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By David Lehman

December 15, 2015


 

 

For line 10 I asked for a line that ended with the words “subject to.” I offered to propose a line or two, and people welcomed the intrusion. I came up with

Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must
Refuse; must fuse our forces; for love is only subject to

and

Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We
Refuse; must fuse our forces; for love is a tough subject to

I liked the idea of alternative senses of “subject to …” As a noun it leads to “master”; as a subordinate phrase it leads to “the laws of” or “the rules of.” The opposite sides of the same motif.

Bewitched by the internal rhyme and heavy alliteration, I decided that I would use the first of these lines, a fanfare for love, until and unless something came along that made me change my mind. I was very taken with Millicent Caliban’s entry, so aphoristic, with an internal rhyme that mimes the effect of a couplet by Alexander Pope:

Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must
Hide from the common view what flesh is subject to

Then came three entries by Berwyn Moore. One in particular appealed to me:

Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must
Appease our lust, our momentary bliss subject to

I went with Berwyn Moore’s line because it maintains a high level of seriousness, re-introduces “lust” and “bliss” into our meditation, and allows for a continuation of the thought in the next line.

Other worthy lines were Elizabeth Solsburg’s “We must / strike a match and burn the contract we are subject to” and Charisse Hoge’s witty “We must / object [to] the loss of a subject.” Paul Michelsen’s wins honors for the week’s funniest line, always a valuable distinction: “We must / Bury the rudest nudist we’ve ever been subject to.”

So this is where we are:

Our dreams as disparate as our days uniform, Michael C. Rush
We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known; Angela Ball
Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm, Christine Rhein
In this version of darkness, we are never alone. Elizabeth Solsburg

If marriage is a cage, we can force the lock, but he Christine Rhein
Clutches the key, a jailer too stubborn to learn Patricia Smith
To read the graffiti. If need be, he can turn  Paul Michelsen
A bouquet to a wreath. Then we will be Poem Today

Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must       Angela Ball
Appease our lust, our momentary bliss subject to               Berwyn Moore
 


Our next line should be looked at as both the eleventh line of the sonnet and the line that completes this three-line stanza. Your line must end with the word “just,” whether lower case or capitalized. The word “just” can be a noun (“the Last of the Just”), an adjective (“the just critic”), a synonym for only (“just kidding”), or part of a compound phrase (“just in time”).

I keep hearing the phrase “the rules of engagement” on talk shows, and it would please me if your proposed line were to begin with this phrase, which has a military meaning but also a spousal one. But that is optional.

Deadline: Noon, Sunday December 19.
Thanks, all.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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