“The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke” — David Lehman

“The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke”
David Lehman

Can’t swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
               intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won’t admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind
​               numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence,
​               breaks mother’s plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during
​               the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference
​               between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized
​               the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam
​               months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him
​               a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes;
​               transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height
​               of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks
​               French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris;
​               knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.