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lyn lifshin

lyn lifshin has published more than 100 books of poetry, won awards for her nonfiction and edited 4 anthologies of women's writing, including 'tangled vines,' 'ariadne's thread,' and 'lips unsealed.' her poems have appeared in many literary and poetry magazines and she is the subject of an award-winning documentary film, 'lyn lifshin: not made of glass,' available from women make movies. her web site is www.lynlifshin.com



of upstate nights, the
snow you brought
on your skin
and dark pine hills.
Someone different
breathes into my
dreams and the
quilts of gone
nights drifts over
my wrists. Love, you
were like the falls
at the window, a
torrent of water
pushing and
throbbing like a
wilderness I
was lured by but
terrified to know.
Now I can let
my lips unclench,
not shudder at your
face in the drawer,
let what I wanted and
what was move
into my palm like
ice crystals I know no
thing alive can
hold or make stay



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



forgetting pills and running
back to the house, finally
on the train, a flash to that other
May, my hair just washed.
Chloe on my wrists and behind my
knees, your favorite blue lace
panties. Today time seems
botched. It couldn't have been
so many years since I slept against
your back, as many years ago
as your son was old, long enough
for me to have a daughter with
eyes as blue, to haunt me. The
green, maybe, a wall of it like
trees I drove through, that moist
avalanche of black emerald .
Or was it the tea rose leaking
on my skin made me think
of long hot hazy hours in your
kitchen, in different rooms,
moving toward your mouth. Or
the low pressure, like when
electricity went out and I
wanted the dark to trap us,
torn trees to block the door. The
elastic is still good in those
lace panties, my hair is growing
longer, as if it was a flag
I could wave to let you know I'm
in town, as if you were living and
I were coming to you, still high
from a dance class where,
when I stretched and warmed
up, it was as if for you


Since you died, a sleet
storm that day, unseasonably
cold. I couldn't have gotten
to where you were. What
I mean is I was headed there
to see an aunt 3 weeks later
when you got tucked in
in my town. It was very hot
for April. No one wore
a coat. I wore what I often
wore, heading slightly down
state to you then tho I went
a little east of where you
lay as you used to, waiting
for me to drive down, as if you
had nothing to do but let
time pass



the metro slicing thru roots
and leaves, I could be
Persephone, slamming
thru blackness, the lover's
lips a magnet all the
metal in her hips is
sucked toward. I could
be hurtling thru
strangers, my mother,
Demeter, an ache that's
part of my own, leaving
what held me, torn
as my clothes would be
by over-eager fingers.
I can't stay with either.
My mother is sobbing in
the roses, in the weeds,
intent on still having
me, even tearing
chunks of myself from
myself, yelling at
my husband, reminding
him who had me first
until I feel like meat
starved dogs fight over



far enough down
so the wind couldn't
touch you even if
you were alive. You
don't have to have
your car inspected,
pay taxes, think of
getting or leaving a
job. You don't need
toothpaste, won't
need to blue shirts
to make your blue
eyes bluer, don't need
cigarettes, a phone
mate or any mate.
You won't see the
finger nail moon,
white boughs of lilac.
No more radio for
you, no Tasty Kakes
Lady calling in to
your talk show, no
Naughty Lady to
whisper she hears
frogs, feels horny.
You won't have
laundry to do won't
feel lonely on week
ends but not lonely
enough to do some
thing to change it



how, if things went bad, if there
was a moon disaster and the
astronauts couldn't come back,
they'd call the widows-to-be
before reading the statement to
the nation then NASA would
cut off communication with
the stranded astronauts and
the clergyman would adopt
the same procedure as a
burial at sea. I think of you,
baby, telling me how you
pulled the plug on your phone
talking to a woman who
thought she was yours, a
warning I should have listened
to before I was in a cold place
where those astronauts might
have been with no hope left
of getting back to where I'd
been, stuck, abandoned, with
out anything like those suicide
capsules someone says they
carried with them. When
you hung up, said you'd call
back and didn't, I could have
been getting that phone call,
not so different from the one
I got months later cutting all
connections: "It's not you,
it's me." and then, "It's over."



burning like a woman
gang banged on the
pool table 22 times,
what you think of
hearing New Bedford.
I remember hearing
that woman moaned,
"Don't honey pour all
that salt on where you
bit me." Black roses
start to grow in those
holes where you yanked
the roots out, press
thorns against places
softer than nipples,
turns July to a mine so
scraped of jewels
it collapses



bringing out all the mothering
in women who wanted to fix
dinner for you and those who
wanted to fix what was a little
to the right of the stump. How
many poems about a vet with
his leg blown off could be
about a half dozen others,
be about strangers? Many, I
hope readers think. You said
when you felt nothing in your
right leg and saw the left on the
other side of the road, you began
to feel angry. One is fair. But
two, you were railing, is too
much. The copter pilot took the
leg and put it under the blanket,
gave you a Marlboro, said it
would be OK, the way one tucks a
baby in with a lullaby or
buries a still born. You
remembered his blue eyes,
you said, your own, my bluest.
When you heard of the bad
cells spreading, you must, again,
have thought, It's over, must
have felt, as I did, Unfair,
too soon.



unreal as your plastic
leg. But it worked,
got you where you
needed to be. With
it on, of course, you
couldn't get close.
It wasn't that
comfortable. But
like your patience,
it kept everyone
at a distance. You
wanted your tomb
stone to read leave
me alone. Facile,
flirty, even I felt
I didn't exist the
last time I saw you
on air. I never
could, like some
callers, get thru,
couldn't hurt you.
It was a game. Now
that you're dead,
you've won for


When I hear Paul
McCartney's wife
took off her leg
on Larry King,
unlike some I don't
find it strange or
gruesome. I don't
care that Larry King
fondled it, said it
felt like skin, the toes
like toes, a different
style for different
occasions. They made
them better in England
someone says, some
for jogging, some
for high heels. "There
the leg was, right up
on the table," a man
says as if it was her
intestines, liver. I
think once I was as
uneasy with the man
who lost his leg in
Nam, how he just
assured me that with
out it he could hold
me closer



I'm back in your city. You're
not in the dream tho other
ghosts are, my mother trying
to unpack in this house of
dark baskets. My sister is
difficult as ever. I start out
for ballet early and like with
you, time dissolves and I've
a perfect excuse not to be
going. You are that ballet
class, a joy, a high, a challenge
where I might as well be nude,
what I can't do exposed as
Ronnie Selsman, pulling
open his zipper on the steps
of Mt Olympus, a life time ago
when really I wanted to charm
you, make you have to put
your hand in your mouth to
stop from yelping with longing
when I danced near your
blue sheets in sapphire anklets



say the microphone
is like a penis, "it
gives power, you
know that," he says
in an interview and
I think of those I've
been pulled close to,
that electricity, how
I panted for the blue
eyes behind it, even
just touching the dial.
How I vowed I'd
wrap my legs around
that voice, hump his
heart. It was those
vowels over air waves.
It didn't matter that I
had seen his eyes,
blue, frozen lakes,
way before I felt him
twist my wrists over
my head, each ankle
tied to a bed post,
that no one, even
with a gun,
could make me
switch the dial
or turn him off

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