Exclusive Poetry Feature: “A Modest Revision for Wedding Vows” by Josh Lefkowitz


In sickness and in health

goes the common ceremonial refrain,

but I would add in boredom

and while doing day-to-day mundane activities.


In grocery shopping on Sunday mornings.

In folding the laundry side-by-side

with country music radio accompaniment.


I’m not saying this is me

at my most romantic.

But let’s be practical, too.


The average life expectancies:

76 for men, 81 for women.

(Lucky you, with those extra five years

and complete control of the TV remote).


Average age of marriage:

27 for women, 29 for men.


That means we’re staring down the collective barrel

of forty-seven to fifty-four years of matrimony.

Yes, I think a pragmatic revision seems right.


And isn’t that the real meat, anyhow?

It’s true: a car accident or cancerous cyst,

an unexpected hospital stay

will often breed the most tender exchanges.


We know how to love

when the threat of a too-soon end looms.

So why do we forget how it always looms?


Let’s practice love on some dumb Tuesday evening,

where everyone’s exhausted from stresses at work

and neither party has the patience for risotto.


Let’s love as we heat up the leftovers,

love the familiarity of our ten-year-old

chipped tableware which we swear to someday replace.


That you, in spite of the terrible nightly news,

continue to sort our paper from plastic

strikes me as an impossibly hope-filled act.


I’m serious! Of course I loved you then, when

you wore white, your hair an immaculate bouquet.


But now, decades later – remembering

how temporal all this is – I watch you

floss your teeth for the ten-thousandth time

and my skin can still turn to gooseflesh.


The Parisian honeymoon’s a distant memory, and yet

I would not want to be anywhere other than here:

you putting on your nighttime t-shirt,

the one with the Rolling Stones logo

and a little hole in the shoulder material

through which your skin beneath shines.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I get you

to have, and – come here – to hold.


Josh Lefkowitz was born and raised in the suburbs of metro Detroit. His poems and essays have been widely published online and in print, including in The New York Times, Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, The Millions, The Rumpus, and many other places, including journals in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Hong Kong. This is his third publication with Grub Street.

Poetry Feature: At the Library by Josh Lefkowitz

Back at the library, trying to write

an interesting poem about ancient Greeks


but some little girl won’t shut up about horses

and the two librarians are being too Minnesota-nice.


They had six different words for love, those Greeks:

Eros, Philia, Ludus, Agape, Pragma and Philautia.




Eros, of course, is the most well-known:

Passion, driven by desire.




And Pragma, I think, is a worthy aim –

developed over time, as a river carves rock.




Y’know, I’m really trying to practice Agape here –

love for everyone, including annoying little girls –


but I’m also pursuing Philautia – self-care –

and that means writing, and that needs quiet.




Her mother – not deaf, just regretting her life –

hides in the stacks and swipes through her phone.


Back to the ancient Greek shelves I go,

this time not for love, but Euripides.


There’s some good ideas in here, I say,

interrupting the mother-phone session, handing her a play:



“Internet Dating, Day 16” by Josh Lefkowitz

When I read about the one girl who studies orangutans

suddenly my passion for apes knows no cage-like containment.

Another young woman travels widely in the summer

and there I am zip-lining alongside her above Cozumel’s white sands.

When they hate black licorice, I swear to ne’er eat it again.

They all like Mad Men– seriously, they all like Mad Men

and so I don my best clenched Draper jaw, click and upload accordingly.

It’s all a perfectly amiable way in which to pass the day,

sifting through a sea of smiling beauties, sailing witty inquiry boats.

But if I’m being honest, I miss you-

-r better moments, your silent laugh, body shaking in soundless guffaws,

or those nights you spelled letter-by-letter words on my chalkboard back.

And your hand in mine, which deserves its own line.

Strange, to sit here with infinity at my fingertips, wondering

how I got it so wrong – that what I thought a spark was actually a wildfire.

Josh Lefkowitz received an Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry at the University of Michigan. His poems have been published in Washington Square Review, Contrary, Electric Literature, Court Green, Shooter Literary Magazine (UK) and Southword Journal (Ireland), among many other places.