February 12, 2010

Lyn Lifshin

LIPS

Yours, honey, were so perfect,
a little rosebud mouth, not
those puffed up blubbery
things
, my mother says when
I pointed out the models’
collagen petals. “Roses,” my
mother always says, “that’s
what yours were, 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.” 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, that 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
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.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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