September 16, 2021

Lyn Lifshin


I think by “good” he means “sexy.” Poems
about stopping on back roads in the car with
a bigger front seat, not even waiting for
a road off a road but pulling velvet and denim
off like roast skin from a turkey. I don’t tell
him, maybe I should but the poems dripping
love juice and pubic hair were written when
I wasn’t getting any. A virgin after eight years,

my mind was never not on erotic movies in
my head where even the music was the in and
out of bodies. I had time in the raised ranch
to dream a man would emerge from the trees,
fantasize slow afternoons behind chiffon drapes
in the bed of white silk until it ripped. Years my
arms ached for more than the tiger cats and
the buff kitten. If a man wrote me from some

coast I opened on paper to him, came on to
strangers and convicts on the page. Those sheets
always felt safe enough to let them know their
words got me wet, even my hair was horny. I
wrote about what wasn’t there, what left a hole
I was terrified I’d drown in. “Writing like a hippie
but living like a nun,” a magazine quoted me
and probably I said it. It was the way those in

the concentration camp talked of food, of seeing
light, the moon, were famished for the smell of
bread. Fantasized chicken, apples, beef, all the things
they’d never thought much about when they had
more than they could devour as, baby, I do now.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001
Tribute to the Underground Press


Lyn Lifshin: “Poetry and ballet are like breathing to me. These are my main obsessions, along with Abyssinian cats, velvet, blues, the sound of geese in blackness, raspberry coffee, roses, stained glass and colored beads. My happy time comes from reading short stories on the metro returning from ballet lessons.” (web)

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December 14, 2019

Lyn Lifshin


bees, my
skin smells
of sun, the
insides of
roses. I want

to eat that
light. Every
thing that
grows does.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Lyn Lifshin: “I am told that when I was younger than three, on a trip from Barre to Middlebury, Vermont, on a back road, I said that ‘the trees look like they are dancing.’ My mother, who named me Rosalyn Diane thinking it was a perfect name for someone in theater, something she would have loved—if I didn’t do that, maybe I’d be a writer. Since I skipped from first grade to third and never got long division or any math, I excelled in reading and writing. I had a teacher who had us write every day, brought in say a jar of apple blossoms and read us Blake and Wordsworth. One day I copied some words from Blake, showed it to my mother and said I wrote them. Not surprising, in a tiny New England town, she ran into my teacher and raved about how inspiring she’d been and how her daughter had written a poem using words she never knew I knew. By Monday, I had to write my first own poem. I still have it and the one on apple blossoms.” (web)

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March 16, 2019

Lyn Lifshin


across the rails, the man
with long black hair and
flashing eyes and a smile
I’d have found devastating
as the blond on his neck,
voice full of flamenco and
Lorca, castanets. She is
as pale as he is darkly onyx,
skin a creamy caramel. “I’ve
seen you, yes often,” I hear
her say as she inches closer
and then shakes hands. He
moves as if every space he
knows will warm and open
to him. She’s smiling. Laughs
a little too much, her green
parka seems to be reaching
to touch him as if if she does
not move fast he’ll dissolve
and I think of myself, leaving
a radio station and not wanting
to go without a hook in the
man who made me breathless
as I feel her becoming. “We
could have coffee,” I say
meaning, my number, meaning
just ask. The curve of
my body so like hers as the
train doors open, heading for
a seat where two could fit. Her
voice full of stories, holding
him as I knew my pink lips
over rose leather said who
knows what they did to the man
on the air, made of air like
those streamers of immigrants
leaving Europe on a boat
tied to someone on shore,
floating on currents
of air like sky writing,
a plea even after the ship’s
out of sight and those
on shore stare into blackness.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005


Lyn Lifshin: “Obsessed about what matters: ballet, poetry, film, Abyssinian cats. Recently it’s Ruffian, tragic gorgeous race horse. She took over my life, my dreams, my newest book.” (website)

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February 12, 2010

Lyn Lifshin


Yours, honey, were so perfect,
a little rosebud mouth, not
those puffed up blubbery
, 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
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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July 26, 2008

Lyn Lifshin


someone writes kike on
the blackboard and the
“k’s” pull thru the
chalk, stick in my

plump, pale thighs.
Even after the high
school burns down the
word is written in

the ashes. My under
pants’ elastic snaps
on Main St because
I can’t go to

Pilgrim Fellowship.
I’m the one Jewish girl
in town but the 4
Cohen brothers

want blond hair
billowing from their
car. They don’t know
my black braids

smell of almond.
I wear my clothes
loose so no one
dreams who I am,

will never know
Hebrew, keep a
Christmas tree in
my drawer. In

the dark, my fingers
could be the menorah
that pulls you toward
honey in the snow.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007


Lyn Lifshin: “Sometime in 2004, I fell in love with horses. In Vermont, everyone rode. I took lessons but when it came to going to the racetrack, I brought a book. But somehow Ruffian, a gorgeous black filly who died 32 years ago took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I lived her in dreams, writing, daydreams. I bid for her photos, articles on EBay and Amazon. She got me through a hard time. And now, Barbaro is my new love, my new obsession.” (website)

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