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Lyn Lifshin
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HAVEN’T YOU EVER REALLY

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

just wanted it all

to end? I mean don’t

you get sick of just

trying to stay on top

of what too many

days is only breaking

down? The vitamins

and cat shit, the

creams to keep what

can’t be helped and

more. Some say the

dying feel every

day counts, go through

torture for a few

extra. But truthfully,

call it vanity or

jealousy, when you

see those half your

age or less just

starting, do you ever

want to rush out

and whisper “wait,”

tell them the dirty

secrets time plays and

if you don’t know

what I’m talking

about, you’re lucky

 

 

 

 

LAMBORGHINI

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

there, slithered thru

grey sludge of coming

home thru Sunday

traffic, this fog

hanging over D.C.

Suddenly, as if it

came in a dream,

slithered from

Patagonia, extinct,

everyone thought,

certainly dead as

I’ve been. It could

have been you there

in the café that does

not exist, your leg

grown back, the bad

cells in a film run

backward, not even

dysplasia yet. That

car was you, flashy,

a heart zap. Totally

unattainable and of

course too expensive

for me to consider

for anything more than

a highjacked night

with hell to pay

in the morning

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Woman Floats over the Coffee Tables

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

in the store that no longer

is in downtown Schenectady,

comes back in dreams, ghostly

as fur the child in Tamarind threw

out the dining room window

after the mother cat howled under

the panes for her 4-day old kitten,

hissed and spit. So the child

could hear the yowls, she tried to

cup her chin and lips and threw

the howl out on the stone, heard

the thud and dreamt of the

hobbling blob the next twenty

years. The hunched-over woman

who’d fold and unfold her blue

napkin swoops down, a dark crow,

my mother’s eyes when I said,

though I didn’t believe it, said it to

sting, said it because my mother was

already late getting to the phone

on the first ring, had to sit down

in shopping malls, “that woman

should stay inside.” My mother’s

eyes went black flame. I could

have thrown that curled old woman,

with the shriveled form my mother

would grow into, onto the pavement

on Main Street. My hiss of verbs,

flung back at me in bedrooms I’ve

felt the rustle of her loose skirt in,

a wind of feathers and caws, a death

mask above the sheets, her cane a

beak. My mother merges with her,

yelps with the cat’s growl, leaps

past feather spreads coming back like

that ghost cat to where I listen in

darkness for some sign, some word

out of dark feathers, a whisper that

hasn’t come that it’s ok

 

 

Was That Us When

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

your cats were

my cats?

 

The golden room with

one mobile over

 

blue sheets?
Blinds let the moon in

 

and before it

thundered, before

 

breath moved quick,

then quick and

 

slow, we made

little rooms inside

 

each other’s body

 

 


 

Christmas Tree

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

 

It was all I wanted then and now that I can have one,

I just think of the trail of needles, water spots on the

floor. But in the apartment, lights strung across Main

Street. 78 records near the Batell Block’s loudspeaker

and the shadows of ruby and emerald on snow that was

so much like a calendar scene Life Magazine was

always there photographing the white Congregational

Church spire, the bells always 4 minutes late. Presents

from out of town were  the most mysterious, there

on a table my mother covered with crepe paper

that looked like bricks. My father’s sister gasped, “You

mean you hung up stockings? You really had a tree? You

call your father ‘Ben’?” until we were sure we were heathens.

My grandfather, sly and sneaking around, might climb

up the stairs to the apartment, come in with his own key.

Still, one December we had a small tree, on the table. A

Hanukkah bush my mother called it with rings of pastel-colored

paper, tinsel, nothing too angel-y and certainly no star. It

was green as spring in the flat my mother never fixed up, hoping

to leave for a new house. It smelled of outdoors, of hills and pine I

loved from Girl Scout hikes where we slept in bunk beds listening

to stories. We had no lights or glass bells on the tree, needed

to be able to quietly snatch the trunk and plunge it into the

closet hearing my grandfather’s steps but it seemed, with the

lights inside off and the tinfoil balls and dripping silver near

the window, we had stars inside, sparkling as in the sky

 

 

 

The Last Time I Saw You

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

was it over a microphone?
I don’t think snow was

falling as it did the day

you drove to pick me up

in whiteness. Only your

blue sheets, less blue than

your eyes don’t blur. When

it snows, the blue shadows

could blend with the blue

sweater the women who

adored you on the radio

fought over. What does it

matter. I wore it with

nothing underneath. How

long did the rose scent

I left on purpose in those

quilts hang in the room

as now so little seems to

 

 

 

 

Sleeping With Lorca

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

 

It’s not true, he never chose women.

I ought to know. It was Grenada and

the sun falling behind the Alhambra was

flaming lava. I could say I was

too but some things should be left unsaid.

But I remember his fingers on the buttons

at the back of my neck, my skin burned

as he fumbled with rhinestone and pearls.

I want you breathed into my neck though

perhaps he was whispering Green,

green I want you green. How little he

needed to impress me with his poems.

One English term paper with them and I

was naked, taken. It wouldn’t matter if

he had a pot belly or stank of garlic.

My jeans were a puddle around my

knees. I was the gored bull, hypnotized

by moves I’d only imagined but never

believed would enter me. There’s

more you might coax me to say but

for now, it’s enough I can still smell the

green wind, that 5 o’clock in the afternoon

that would never be another time

 

 

When I Read His Love Poem: Oh Yes

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

 

In these pale yellow

rooms, gold light

settling on a rose

in a glass bowl.

When I think of how

you called my body

cougar slim, tawny,

the dark gold of my

thighs, I feel your

skin on the ochre rug

I sent you a clip of

as if it was my hair

 

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER ST PATRICK’S DAY

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

 

It was in the house where

chiffon blurred whatever

seemed too clear and I

left the windows open

as if to pull light and air

into the bedroom where

it didn’t seem there was

any. The phone on the floor

near my side of the quilt

on the plush pile carpet

that, except where plants ate

through, and two spaces cats

threw up, was perfectly

clean, like a beach I could

lie on and imagine salt

wind, hear the sea. Then

that one year, my mother

calling, the bad news: it

was she said instant. She

said Murray hadn’t let it

sink in, driving, who knows

who was drinking. Instant.

The night before my mother’s

old, long ago boyfriend’s

only son, adopted, though they

never told him, 16. Only a

year or two after Murray’s

wife died. In the years that

followed, Murray made his

son a hero but never went out

on or near Saint Patrick’s

Day. That’s when he began

talking about wanting to

be buried with his head

above ground in case his son

came back looking for him

 

 

THE MAD GIRL DREAMS SHE IS SCARLETT O’HARA, TRUSTS IN THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

It wasn’t the emerald velvet,

how that gown made of

drapes, even in dust, showed

her tiny waist. Or how,

pale and slim, half-starved,

still she was a beauty. Not those

words the lover hurled at her

like Rhett’s barrage. She

knew there would always be

another and if anyone

could get what she wants

she knows she is the one.

If she survived the war in

her head she knows

she can survive anything.

Sure, the scent of burning

orange trees haunted, she could

not wash them from her skin.
But she’ll be damned if

she let the what-have-beens

braid into her. First she

thought it was the platters

of ham and sweet yams

that had her new clothes

pulling across her body. Or

maybe the material shrank.

The mad girl wonders if

it’s the exotic rich pastries

she dreamt of when her

house was in fire and

there was no food  in the

house. It is one thing to

believe when life gives

you green velvet curtains

you make a green velvet

dress but what of a baby

swelling under where you

can’t see and no idea

of who could be the father?

Scarlett would know, she

is sure and yawns to sleep

with a “I’ll thing about

that tomorrow” grin

 

 

 

Ballroom Class as Brothel

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

In the dim lights, a

woman can forget she’s

not twenty. A drink

wouldn’t be bad, like

in a whorehouse,

I suppose: “relax,

relax your shoulders,”

the teacher purrs.

Maybe it is more like

having a gigolo. I have

to pay dearly. Or he’s

an escort. Pleasantries

and a special hug to

make sure you come

back. Who would not

spend their last dime

to feel they are skimming

the earth, taken out

of their bodies, held

in arms not unlike

the ones dreamt of as

a 15-year -old until

the time’s out

 

 

The Dog Food Heiress

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

packs a few trunks,

hitches down the

coast in rainbow shoes,

cornflower blue

contact lenses.

She doesn’t want

her daddy’s bread,

stops at truck stops

sleeps in tumble

weed, sees her

self as milkweed,

drifting, gauzy,

attaches to who

ever puts his

shoulder or boot

against her. The

black seeds don’t

pull her down. She

takes what she

wants, who she

wants, and moves

thru Italy and Spain,

deep into Africa

where she’ll braid

her blonde hair with

licorice strands as

guns rip through

bamboo in the hot

broth of night air

before a stranger

throws her off the

porch. She can smell

eucalyptus, picks

herself up like broken

crockery only an

eye looking for

imperfection would

discover

 

 

 

 

Burning the Yartzeit Candle in the House My Mother Died in

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

so close to where she

last asked for bread

and butter in milk,

what she had on Sunday

night as a child. When

she visited me in this

house we bought candles

for her to light for her

mother. There was

always an extra candle

on the shelf near the

laundry tub where no

gauze, no lint, no

daring cat could brush

the flame. It was always

the two of us together,

solemn, still. In her

last year, again at my

house, I helped her

light the wick. A

woman who always

wanted to lose weight,

she was 90 lbs, cheek

bones, her shoulder blades

sharp, protruding.

Flickering light lit up

the hollows on her face.

18 years ago, feels like a

heartbeat as, unable

to find the memorial

candle, I light a blue one

with a star. It lights up

the small room with a

mirror, casts eerie light.

It’s dark with just that

light. In the mirror, her

face could be mine

 

 

 

 

Lips

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

Yours, honey, were so perfect,

a little rose bud mouth, not

those huge puffed up blubbery

things my mother says when I

pointed out the models’ collagen

petals. “Roses,” my mother always

said, “that’s what yours were, and

a nice tiny nose. That’s from your

father. One good thing. Not a big

ugly one like I’ve got.” I think of

my mother’s lips moving close to

my hair, how her breath was always

sweet. “Too thin lips, like your

father’s show stinginess.” And she

was right. A man who couldn’t

give presents or love, a good word

or money. I only remember

three things he told me and

all begin with Don’t though my

mother said stories came from

those lips and he brought me a

big dog, I only remember the

thinness of his lips, how his

death meant I wouldn’t have to

leave school to testify for the

divorce. Lips. When I came home

from camp, I found Love Without

Fear in the bathroom and read,

“If a girl lets a man put his tongue

in her lips down there she’ll let

him do anything and then some

thing about deflowering. A

strange word I thought, trying to

imagine flowers down there, rosebuds

not only on my mouth, a petal

opening, but a whole bush of petals,

a raft of roses someone kneeling

would take me away on, a sea of

roses, flowers and my lips the

island we’d escape to

 

 

 

The Man Who Mostly Lip Reads

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

doesn’t hear me

ring the bell. I

check the garage,

but there are no

windows. The house,

a glow of lights.

Across the street,

shades go up,

lights blink off

and on again. I’m

back in the car,

about to write a

sorry-I-missed-

you note when he’s

out in shirt sleeves,

had been waiting

for me. Inside

he turns the

light off to

kiss me, on again

to see my lips.

I want my skin to

suck up details.

Arms under sleeve-

less undershirt,

gold cross, lips

pulling me down

on the velvet

sofa. Later in

bed he says,

lights off, what

ever you’re saying,

it feels good.

Skin on skin,

lips there and

there he can

read with his

eyes closed

 

 

 

 

IMAGINING MY MOTHER AS A YOUNG GIRL

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

I would like to say how at least before

the brothers came, she slept in the

carved bed, maples and yellow roses

at the glass. But she always had the

smallest room in the house. "A girl?"

her father growled and didn't bother

to report the birth for three days. Frieda

with hair so curly she pasted it under

bands as later she would flatten her

breasts in what was in for the 20s.

Frieda with her white sox, stretched out

and drooping, curling into herself in

the twin bed in the den, her father

whispering to the hired girl, "nice,

nice pussy." I think of her feeling,

always, "just a girl, a disappointment,"

she heard someone say like an egg, black

where the yolk should be. I think of

her after the one thing she loved, her

dog Toy, a mixed Spitz was hit

by a car and whisked to the vet to be put

down and how she sneaked from the

house alone before dawn, walked in flimsy

slippers on a main road to bring this torn

dog home, for just one precious minute

 

 

RAGE

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

a flower that

explodes, something

you once thought

you wanted to

curl near,

stroke, becomes

a porcupine

in your throat,

nail bomb

breaking apart in

your throat

so even your last

words bleed

 

 

 

OTHER LOVERS

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

carry you up to the

garnet bedroom with

your boots on. Some

rub chocolate all over

then steal your Kennedy

silver dollars when you

leave him the key.

Some never hear you

even if they aren’t

deaf. Other men say

because of a leg they

lost in Iraq, they can

get closer to you. When

they say they love,

it’s almost the last

thing they say except

“it’s not you, it’s me.”

Turn your knuckles

raw knocking on his

door: sex will be

great but it always

will be over

 

 

THOSE LOVERS

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

some, let’s say the first,

you stop eating for,

call at the last moment

If you are 13 you’re sure

you can’t live without

them. Or you work on

science projects fever-

ishly, aching for the

phone. Some join the

Navy, send you cheap

Cuban coins from there

S.W.A.K. on the box.

His uniform makes you

heady. Weeks of kisses

in his navy blues and

then on leave, he shrugs

when asked if you should

wear a stole and never

again is heard from.

Some take you out in

a field, then upstairs in

the hotel where you let

him peel off spray rhine-

stone earrings and the

stretchy wool dress

with net and sparkles.

And when you don’t

let them peel your hymen

from what’s still holding

it, don’t call again. Some

you never cared for but

needed a date for some prom.

Others  are so insistent it’s

easy to waste a night or two

with them. The ones that

are too shy to call, you

feel their eyes burning

thru you. Some would-be

lovers call from the Vatican

or Notre Dame say they have

their vows but would you send

something that’s been close to you

like your unwashed underwear

 

 

 

ON THE THIRD DAY MY CAT WON’T EAT

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

any good news

is tainted. Tuesday’s

tainted sequins,

sometimes there

are no reprieves,

no cat calling for

her dinner, no man

to lift my hair before

we tango, whisper

golden lights.

I wanted a day when

everything was

as it was, hearts

regular as clocks

that aren’t broken.

I want the forced

plum to open, the

tangerine bloom

perfume the sun

room. I want the

cat to doze under

its leaves. If I had

a daughter, she

would be holding

the cat against

her strawberry hair,

her lips my lips

but not my terror.

Light would be

pinpricks of rasp

berry, the moon, a

gone lover’s

favorite, his

fingernail moon


 

 

A LEITMOTIV, SITTING ON THE BLEACHERS

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

 

waiting to be asked to

dance. I didn’t know

until that hideous night

no boy would want to

hold me. So I painted,

did science projects

that always won,

First prize with a

study of the eye. It

seemed one way to

have people look at

me. Later, no longer

plump, men yelled

from car windows in

Honolulu and Muscle

Beach. Waiting for

some stud to come

up to me still makes

me sweat. So when my

teacher is hypnotized

by my poems, uses

words like genius

reading my poems to

everyone in the dance

studio, spends so much

time checking my

website out his wife

was miffed. When he

wants to see every

or any poem I’ve

written about ballroom

and yet doesn’t ask

me to demonstrate

like I’m someone he’s

never talked to yet

begs like someone

settling in to do a blow

job for poems I’ve

done about being

at Fred Astaire who

knows how hard he

will have to work to

peel them out of

my cold dead hands



 

 

MAYBE, HONEY, I’M GRINDING MY TEETH TO DUST

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

to throw on your grave.

It isn’t easy to bury you.

Running to the metro in

the handicapped spot I see

license plates with “COMBAT

WOUNDED” on it. You

never would have gone

for that, once said, when you

saw your leg on the other

side of the road, it was

something, as a marine, you

were ready to take but

then when you couldn’t feel

the other and they were

shouting up to the copter,

casings exploding, enough

is enough, you screamed, both,

are fucking too many

 

 

THOSE LAST MONTHS

 

Lyn Lifshin

 

first my mother would

get out of bed and come

to the small TV room

half underground. Her

turquoise duster the

brightest thing in the

room. Emaciated, she'd

always wanted to be

thin enough to eat all the

chocolate she wanted

and now that she was,

she couldn't. June and

July in green mountains,

days shopping for some

thing she might like

to eat, raspberry Popsicles,

strawberries and cream,

rich ice cream milk

shakes. Later I led her

by the hand to the bath

room as my mother

led me in the same way.

Each day she got

smaller, less able to

do what she had, this

balloon drifting farther

from me. She was my

small bird in a nest she

can never fly from. When

I showed her slides of

Hawaii, slopes of plumeria

I dreamed I could bring

her to, to heal, the sun

rise at Haleakalā,

her eyes start to close.

I bring her ice. In weeks

we leave by ambulance past

fields of tiger lilies. She

still sighs they mean

the end of summer, how

everything is over. In

the room in my house where

she insisted she wanted

to be, they bring IV ringers.

Panicked, I learn to count

the drips with a watch I buy

for its second hand. Then,

too soon, fast as summer,

fast as the last lily goes

brown, only her shape

in the egg crate, the

unused drugs and

needles, the nurses no

longer needed

from midnight to 7 A.M.

My house, in stillness lets

go of wheelchairs

and hospital beds, diapers

and the beet and spinach soup,

the few things she'd eat.

And August ambles

on, slow and still as other

Augusts my mother

and I watched fireflies in

the night, iced coffee

and the screen door open

and the cat that has outlived

her darting for moths

rubbing against

my legs as if

she always would

 

 

 

 

THE “LAST GOOD KISS YOU HAD WAS YEARS AGO” TANGO

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

this is a sad tango.

Each figure 8, a

circle of loss

and grief. Grazed

hips like fire

in a breeze. You

wonder if

there is muscle

memory in lips,

if the word

tango really comes

from the word

tangere, to

touch. And then

wonder if this

is the night a luscious

woman will

make your mouth water 

 

 

 

WHEN I WILL BE SPANISH AGAIN

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

so long after I'm that plump girl shivering

in thin cotton my mother dyed red for

Halloween parade up Main Street, I order

"Spanish Lady" sexy adult xs on line.

Twenty years almost since her death, my

mother haunts me, I can hear her mumbling,

mouth full of pins, hemming the ruby-red

cotton. I hated how my body swelled

under the tight cloth. Clearing out her apart-

ment I looked for dyed shreds, a remnant of

the dark mantilla. Too plump then, I would

not have wanted my legs exposed tho

I dreamt about a ballerina costume. Long

enough since to have children who have

children of their own, I decide Halloween

has to be Spanish. It's July and who knows

what will happen tomorrow, forget months

later but I go for the Spanish babe dress,

"very short," a customer writes for comments.

I go ahead. At least now tho my hair is no

longer night color but blonde—I probably

will buy a wig—my skin, ivory and taut

then now under black lace and my legs still

make me turn. Last week a man stopped

me on the metro to say they were perfect.

I couldn't help but smile. When I squeeze into

the costume's scarlet silk covered with black

lace, try to pin the comb and flimsy mantilla

into my hair, I will think of my mother's fingers

behind me in the Heywood Wakefield mirror

I now have in my house, arranging and touch-

ing hair she always wanted out of my face

so thick beauty parlors thinned it out, long

dark hair I could use now for this costume, hair

my mother always said I ruined when I dyed

and straightened it. I will remember her fingers

straightening the cotton that could never make

me look thin. My new costume has a pretty

low back, lace gloves to the shoulder, glitter,

jewels. I won't have the pink-rimmed glasses I

hated and wore until college. I'll think of how

my mother would stay up, wild to hear how

things went. She'd be there if I had a good

time or came back in tears, assuring me, tho

I never believed it, I was a beauty

 

 

“When I Will Be Spanish Again,” by Lyn Lifshin. Originally appeared in Issue # 19 of MEDIAVIRUS on February 7, 2011.

           

 

 

 

 

HEARING BRIGITTE BARDOT TURNS 70

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

I want to find her old

kitten photos, start

with her pouty lips,

swirl of hips and

eyes it seemed

nothing could

diminish. I want a shot

of the blonde babe

when she was

blonder than blond,

the babe time couldn't

wither and I want

to trace her

perfect skin, maybe

follow her out

line thru tracing

paper, taut flesh

and perky nipples,

lush hair. I don't want

to draw her skin letting

go of what held it

in a perfect

curve but pulling

away from perfection,

a shock, as startling

as a look at

Secretariat in his

last days. "Don't

come to see him,

remember him as he

was," a sports

writer was told as

if to keep him

 

 

MY FATHER STARTED TO DIE EATING DONUTS

 

By Lyn Lifshin

 

 

the salt wind on

the pier, Old Orchard.

Photographs of movie

stars, 6 for a quarter.

Elizabeth Taylor,

Sophia Loren, I

remember there was

not any sound. We got

in the car fast, left

the hotel and drove

to Malden. His sister

made calls in a quiet

voice and my sister and

I examined our rubber

dolls, their skin turned

brown by sun in the

car's back seat. We

didn't know how quiet

we had to be in that

house that smelled so

Jewish. We had not

thought we'd go back

there after the time

that Sophie piled

chicken liver on my

father's plate, scolded

us for calling him Ben,

having a Christmas tree

and no star of David.

We didn't know how

long we'd have to

stay with TV shows

about murder we could

not shut out in the

cold dark room


 

BLUE BEARD TANGO

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

never not dangerous,

never with a happy ending.

Tantalizing yes but

then, there are all those

women in the basement 

 

To dance with him is

all warning. But who

doesn’t die for

lady killers

 

these Prince Charmers,

a cautionary tale. If

swept off your feet,

you won't have what

you have long.

 

Soon he'll misplace

you, lock all the forbidden

doors to his heart. If

your curiosity

 

becomes too much

and you steal the key,

what you find will

haunt you. When he

discovers you

 

know what's going

on he'll invite you into

his mahogany chamber.

If you think he can't

 

lead you where he

wants you to go, just

remember the force,

the staccato of his

legs in tango

 

the love and hate in

his body as he

reels you in and

then spits you out

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

It was definitely California,

bougainvillea breaking

out like purple stars.

Not Paris, not Africa.

Jet lagged, coming from

the snow, heat, and

light like a drug and my

own words in the trunk.

Not there from Las Vegas

or a Grecian Isle but

escaping lovers I could

not stay with too. I didn't

think anyone did the

goat dance but I wish

someone had a camera.

I suppose we had a little

wine because some

one planned what they were

sure would give a sad

eyed man a treat, put

back his smile. Another

said he had two ladies,

two women he swore he'd

always love, two

women whose faces filled

the rooms in his tiny house:

posters, albums, books.

It was wild. One was

Joni, the other me. Warned

of the surprise, the man's

face went snow standing at

the  window. I was high

on his being as happy

it was me. I think they told

him it would be one

of us. Probably I wore

madras or tie-dyed. My long

hair sleek as Joni's. I

was wearing my spider

medallion. I wasn't used to

such a shy fan, too shy

to come to the door. I too

was strung out on another man.

I had a week or two to

hang around. He wasn't

the first to be afraid to talk

to me at a reading, to run

out before the end. All that

time I thought of Joni,
her songs in my hair, my

own pretty strangers

and the bad news of war

and now I wonder if

he often thinks of

both of us

 

 

 

 

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHEN HE ATE THE ONLY PROVOLONE SANDWICH

by Lyn Lifshin

 

and then later shoved one slab

of his mother's cold pizza

into his face never saying he

was sorry there wasn't any

for me. Or when he stole the

jug of Chablis at the poetry

reading along with massive

slabs of gouda and brie

oozing, flattened, under a

jacket somebody left by

mistake in his house. I

should have known all this

meant something like the

circle around the moon,

should have seen signs of what

would come in the chamomile

tea bag dunked 25 times. Not

that he was Robin Hood.

If he brought stolen wine to

a party he'd refill it and lug the

bottle home when it was

time to go, sulked if no one

gave him books or tickets or meat.

Magazines I hadn't even noticed

were missing, little pieces of

string. Stamps disappeared.

It gave him cramps to think the

last woman had run out on

him leaving him with the

rent. He slugged one man in the

Exxon station insisting he

didn't owe an extra seven cents

because he'd put in lead free

by mistake. In spite of his

skinny leg sand asthmatic ways,

people he visited were often ready

to call the police. I should have

known after he ate four meals

without offering anything to anybody.

He thought he could steal

my heart as he had gulped down

the yogurt slurping it down

before he left the store saving the

cartons. Because he loved me

so he called me selfish pushy Jew

and broke into my bedroom,

bit the wires then tried to

steal the cat and feed it

stolen mice and glassy wires.

He had as much going for him

as the tickets he threw a

cross the bed when he broke

the door whining I JUST wanted

to take you to this Buffy St

Marie concert. In the tangled

of torn phones, bruises, ripped

cotton a few days later:

those tickets rose like

an oil slick stamped

with some singer's name I

never heard of, good only

for

          February, 1977

         

 

 

WHEN THE SEA SWALLOWS EARTH

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

a young boy

in a tent of wreckage

falls asleep in

torn skin and

lilies craving

radiance

 

 

 

ON THAT DAY

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

a woman finds her

aunt in the rubble,

kneels to bless her

as somewhere else

under snow and

wreckage, a flower

I don't know the

name of opens

close to sludge

where lifeless shapes

already become one

with iced mud. A

shivering dog curls

near matted fur

of a dead dog

the wind ruffles,

as if to protect it

 

 

 

 

 

RAMONA LANE

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

in the back row of a

class that wouldn't listen

with her 70 IQ and

enormous pleading eyes,

 

saucers of licorice.

"I want to learn"

over the loud chain

saw buzz of boys,

laughing, guffawing

 

"I'd like to pass the

bar too." Ramona

in your pink check

dress, hair so black

it was close to blue

 

Still as a mannequin,

oblivious to spit

balls pokes in the

ribs. Ramona, I

couldn't teach you,

 

old enough now to have

a daughter as startled,

paralyzed as the one

deer frozen

in car lights

 

baffled, suddenly

in another world

 

 

IT STARTS OFF SMALL AS A KITTEN YOU CAN CARRY AROUND IN YOUR PALM

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

kept off the bed.

You think you can hide

it, tell it where to go.

You never dream                  

it could change your

habits. Suddenly it

is digging, scratching

your heart in the middle

of the night. You hardly

have anybody over.

It's like that old

woman who took the

heifer born the day

her last son died into her

bed and wrapped it

in an old flannel robe.

She said it grew so fast,

four years but it seems

like days and now I can't

get it out the door                    

 

 

 

 

MALLETS BAY

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

the sun swallowed by

Lake Champlain. My

sister and I on the

screened-in porch

hearing a story that

will scare us even

after we can't still

remember it. The

cousins are laughing.

A smell of damp

flannel and smoke.

Fireflies in the

plum leaves and my

mother's cigarette

on the glider next

door, a firefly we

can't stop watching

 

 

 

ON THAT STREET

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

after supper women

calling the children

back from the sand

 

thru tumbleweed,

their faces stained

with berries

 

Cathy, Timmy,

Tommy, a boat

 

rocking in leaves

 

Ronnie, the sing

song second syllable

shipwrecking a

little Davey

Sherry, Nancy

like a child

calling a lost

cat home in

the night

 

Some say it's the

last thing men

dying in fire,

in explosions hear

 

 

 

 

SNOW WHITE

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

for years locked in a

development of ranch

forgetting how to drive.

She went to bed and

rose up as a virgin,

got all A's

passed her Italian.

Thighs pale, soft as snow

not that anyone

would notice on Rapple.

Roar of power motors like beats,

tumbleweed blown from the

mountains like the

dream she walks into. Suddenly

she's in rooms full of strange

stooped little men, all

anxious to prove their virility

as shorter men often do.

she didn't have anything

else to do and always had done

what was expected, was

always anxious to please so

she let them see them

selves in her the way they

wanted: tall as a live oak.

She cleaned the carpets

with Ivory Snow dreaming of

lost teeth, witches,

ordering clothes from Bebe,

ordering books from

Amazon so no evil

could slip in disguised as

a Jehovah Witness or

some Tea Party candidate

until having a weakness

for apples, she bites in deep,

falls into a blue daze, is

someone in a bell jar

until she spits out what

she swallowed,

rescues

herself

 

 

 

APRICOTS, FIGS AND LATE NIGHTS, CAPPADOCIA

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

as if what I'd painted,

a dreamscape of tilted

houses, carved windows

and eyes jolted up,

rock from rock and

before thunder and the

slash of rain, freeze

frames glitter as lights

go on, rhinestones in

sand where a baby

held in dust wailed,

cherished, put to

sleep under the

house 2000 years

before Columbus

 

 

 

IN THIS ROOM, CAPPADOCIA

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

dolls set on the

wall, their breasts

like fried eggs with

cherry yolks.

Marble floors,

marble table under

an oval, flutes

of glass. Incense,

candles, stucco

tulips, lights. Blue

doll with blue

tits. Dark man in

pantaloons, barefoot

in a purple cove.

A cat made of

ashy flowers, quartz

eggs in pebbles.

Jugs, bowls, iron

faces leering, smiling

breakable as sooth

sayer's lies or

the lost one's eyes

 

 

 

AFTER THE BLUE MOSQUE DREAM

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

Honey and cherry colors

in the morning, wrought   

iron, a cat near begonias.

He looked starved as my

blood is for other lives

in this strange courtyard

longing for arms. White

waves on the Bosphorus,

if I could hold you like

the thigh moving under

gauzy lilac cloth Hodja

cotton. And it wouldn't

be too late

 

 

ISTANBUL

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

she said her mother's

best friend was a

Moslem woman but

when it came to dating

she said don't go with

the non-Jews. Imy,

her black eyes flashing,

red mahogany hair

dark edges thru. She

loved only one Muslim

boy from a big political

family. Her mother

cried and knelt on the

floor. Sometimes

she says the heart won't

heal. She never says

never, leaping thru

crowds as if no arms

can hold her. His family

too, she sighs, famous

doctors, politicians.

After him her mother

says she'll never marry.

She loves her work,

loves history. The

Bosphorus blows

her hair east, the

Mediterranean lulls

her in dreams that

even at 39, almost 40

it's not too late

 

 

WHEN THE DREAM IS MORE REAL

 

By Lyn Lifshin

 

when a blue jewel

drops thru blackness,

startling as emeralds

in Topkapi, white

birds on the minarets.

That's when I want

to flirt with danger,

dare everything I

need to survive

just to be Scheherazade

with so many stories

you couldn't not die

to hold me

 

 

 

INSOMNIA ISTANBUL JUNE 13

 

By Lyn Lifshin

 

Even with the window

clasped, linden scent

and jasmine. Cuniform

slither thru the call

to prayers. I think of

Inheduana, her poems

to Ianna tangled as the

alphabet I'll never know.

Silk tangles in carpets.

I need the first night's

dream back, that sweet

cherry honey, the sweet

ness of the ones who

once called me honey




IT SEEMED LIKE STAINED GLASS

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

or tiger maple jewels

you could lick for its

sweetness. a scrim of

sun on days it seemed

winter would never

leave. Trillium and

hepatica in patches

of snow in the Battel

woods north of East

Middlebury. Chunks

breaking up, gray as the

water rushing down

Otter Falls. The school

day as colorless

until on special

afternoons we piled,

six or seven Girl Scouts

and drove up to Dakin

Farms. Daylight

Savings still hadn't

started yet. The last

light turned the

night mounds raspberry

and cherry and air

was sweet as we

almost danced thru the

grove, the sweetness

magical as last year's

maple sugar men

we got at the end of the

tour, comforting and

delicious as what

we always found in our

stockings at Christmas, bit

the heads off and let

dissolve and we

curled back under the

covers with a new

book: ecstasy




CHRISTMAS AT THE DISCOUNT STORE

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

the night before

leaving for Vermont,

the night no one was

dawdling through

empty aisles. Maybe

the loneliness was

a hint of what would

come as we looked

for last minute gifts

for my mother,

things to add to add

to what was lovingly

hunted for, already

wrapped. It was as if

without the Christmas

plans others had we

didn’t even fit in

our own skin. Better

to have driven through

snow wrapped in a

white fog and not in

this too bright discount

place where there was

nothing that mattered




The Worst Christmas Dream of Scissors and Knives

By Lyn Lifshin

For once, I'm not dreading the day
(foolish, girl). No lights, but the
packages, wrapped, there, waiting.
Friday and Saturday I won't have
to leave the house. I'm in black
velvet, like my e-mail address or
a lake anything could escape
to for good. It's a moonless night
but I don't know yet that's what
I'll be wanting. Was the dream last
night a warning? Or the way the cat
I adore, Jete, who sleeps curled in
to my thighs, my chest, suddenly
lashed out at me? Rearing, her
eyes green fire, her claws knives I
will ache for later? I will want to
escape as if my life counted on it.
At least I hadn't had champagne to
make the hideous news come like
poison in a drugged state, like
getting news of a sister's death when
you had a good buzz. It's the way
Law and Order shows begin. Every
one's laughing. It's the height of
the party often when a young girl is
thrilled about all that's ahead.
Then, in the next shot, she's spread
eagled in a blood pool, torn
lingerie letting you see her gorgeous
legs and belly you hadn't. It was
like that, that plunge. The fireplace
and then the last present. Think of a
woman who goes around the car to
take her baby out of the back seat
and it isn't there. No, I was just sure
after what I'd almost but clearly
not forgotten, "the bolero incident,"
after the rage and humiliation.
This poem would go on for pages
if I laid out the stupid plot. Just let me
say that for the first time in my
life in the dark private hall, I spit.
Now how enraged I must have been,
even you who know little about
me could see I only did that because
I had to. And now, in the dream,
this vixen, this fat slut with pimples,
this flaunting her ass bimbo is
back on the scene again. Since you
said after I exploded, "jewelry
didn't interest me anymore." Well,
there's more but maybe he was
the cat in the dream before, intent
on damage, wild and furious. Or
what happened, still had its claws out.
Or for months I knew only the pale
flesh pendant could soothe the
wound. But I wanted to take the stupid
things he gave me and strangle her.
Or maybe it was him. I wanted to use
my pale pink lace as a noose and
take that steel ladder, such a romantic
gift, and sharpen it into spears that
could maybe go thru both of them like
a skewer of roast lamb or pig. She
with her piggy eyes and her we we we
all the way home giggle. But mostly
it was the scissors, gold and gleaming
-- each blade new and sharp as a
knife in its suede cave. They danced
in the dream, brilliant as tree glitter
or wild lights or some emergency truck
emergency after snow flashing, dangerous
about to cut those snug grins
from both of them

 

 

RUST ON THE WALLS LIKE

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

blood and the dog that

got out of the fenced

in yard put to sleep in

3 hours. Ice in the toilet,

plaster in the bread

and then no bread. The

hot water tank breaks

but doesn't drown the

itch mites. By February

there's no wine. Under

the snow the canoe is

dissolving. It's easier

when the darkest snow

wraps the house in

wind and you can't see

thru plastic. Days all

we can do is curl up in

a quilt and listen to the

maples on the pebble

roof, drift into wild

apples, try to get warm

THE MAPLES HANG ON

 

by Lyn Lifshin

 

 

their leaves, burnt

copper. The news on

the phone is never

easy. Comfort is my

cat in a cove of my

knee. One minute

it was fall. Then the

sky went lead, spit

ice crystals. News on

the phone is never

easy, full of warning.

In the driveway, some

thing without a head,

a clump that looked

like lint from the

dryer. I want some

one to tuck me in, rub

my back. Instead, I

put the geraniums

to bed under quilts

like babies. I think of

the crows circling

crumbs, swooping

down to the squirrels’

nest. My cat, 20,

is on insulin. Yesterday

when the sky went

lead, like the news,

she followed me from

room to room. The

leaves are almost gone

from the maple. I

think of the crows, how

often the dark birds

in films are metaphors

for what no one

wants to say

 

 

Lyn Lifshin’s Another Woman Who Looks Like Me was published by Black Sparrow at David Godine October, 2006. (Also out in 2006,  her prize winning book about the famous, short lived beautiful race horse, Ruffian: The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian from Texas Review Press. Lifshin’s other  books include Before it’s Light published winter 1999-2000 by Black Sparrow press, following their publication of Cold Comfort in 1997 and 92 Rapple from Coatism.: Lost in the Fog and Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness and Light at the End, the Jesus Poems, Katrina, Ballet Madonnas, Light at the End, Tsunami as History, Lost horse, Drifting, Mirrors. For other books, bio, photographs see her web site:: www.lynlifshin.com Persephone was published by Red Hen and Texas Review published Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness. Most recent books: Ballroom, All the Poets (Mostly) Who Have Touched me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially the Lies. Recently out, Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems. Just out October 1, 2013, NYQ Books published  A Girl Goes into The Woods. And also out in November 2013 Tangled as the Alphabet: The Istanbul Poems. Also recently out: For the Roses poems after Joni Mitchell. Just published Hitchcock Hotel. Also forthcoming:  Secretariat: The Red Freak, the Miracle; Malala,AND JUST OUT: The Tangled Alphabet: Istanbul Poems and Luminous Women: and an E book of Marilyn Monroe from Rubber Boots Press and a dvd of the film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. Also forthcoming: 2002-2013 update to Gale Research autobiography series, Lips, Blues, Blue lace: On the Outside. www.lynlifshin.com








 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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