The Human Factor by David Lehman

Indiana power plant after flood, 1913. Photograph by DJ Angus.

It is our great pleasure to present this poem by David Lehman, one of the readers at tomorrow night’s Poems about Nothing event at the Rubin Museum. “The Human Factor” appears in When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005).


The Human Factor


The gambler knows nothing’s
more addictive than deception
with the chance that the betrayed one,
the spouse or the State, is pretending
or consenting to be deceived
for motives of vanity and greed
not different from his own,
leaving him with a choice to make
between his mistress and his self-respect —
which may be why the ideal reader
of Graham Greene’s novels went
to a parochial school, was married
and divorced, has lived abroad
in Europe or Asia, plays in a weekly
small-stakes poker game, works
for a newspaper, lies to make a living.



David Lehman is the editor of  “The Oxford Book of American Poetry.” He initiated “The Best American Poetry” and continues as the series editor of the annual anthology. His latest books of poems are “Yeshiva Boys” and “When a Woman Loves a Man.” The most recent of his six prose books is “A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs” which recently won the 42nd Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor award for outstanding print, broadcast, and new media coverage of music.