Spring 2001


Lyn Lifshin


It would be written
on sand, or on a
hand colored photo
graph of a country
with nobody waiting
with guns, no thatched
roofs on fire, no
hiding in trees after
a knock on the
door: Sister, it is
nothing like we had
or what we imagined.
There are no Jews
in the small rural
towns hardly. They
don't spit or say
we are thieves but
it is as icy in Vermont
as days in Russia.
Lake Champlain is
not like our sea. We
are safe, we are


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 model's 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 tho my
mother said stories came from
those lips and he brought me a
big do, 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
on 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


Lyn Lifshin


swim under my hair.
My uncle gave me
money for them
then, their red claws
nights like dreams
of a class you forget
to prepare for that's
being held suddenly.
You're in your sheets,
The lobsters my mother
never will sink her
tongue into taunt,
could be those students
with notebooks and
pens poised, starved
for what they're sure
only you will bring
them but you are not
dressed, are naked, have
not a clue what course
they're expecting or
how to get out of this


Lyn Lifshin


in the bathing season,
when the rain maker
has answered, praying
in a trance. Everyone
moves near shallow
water, paddles around.
We don't really swim.
There are picnics
and tents. We play
dice. I met love
once near the stone
burning incense,
thanking the gods
for a lovely day

Lyn Lifshin's new book BEFORE IT'S LIGHT (Black Sparrow) won a Paterson Prize Award. The film about her LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS is available from Women Make Movies in NYC and a reading of her poems is still available from NEW LETTERS ON AIR> Her website is www.lynlifshin.com.



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