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spacer.gif   Lyn Lifshin
Posted by : cj on Friday, December 03, 2004 - 03:57 PM
Poetry:  Click On The Author's Name


(Poetry By Lyn Lifshin)


To make it go:
feed it 2 parts twisted
belly from being
afraid to tell the
lover what you mean,
especially when it
comes to money. Go
to a place like Cape
Cod where everyone
seems stoned, in
love and you sit
in the back of
your mother's blue
car remembering when
you were 20, before
the loves, the husbands,
the men. Ride past
a street where the
dead girl used to
live, have a fight
with your baby, call
him Friday night
from a place where
nobody's alone, but
dancing and have
him tell you he
doesn't know if he
still cares since
you've gone off
with your mother.
Tell him you've
sold your house
and hear him yawn.
Count the days until
you get the report
on the 3rd biopsy,
count your cavities,
other holes, things
that decay. Pry
open the machine's
teeth if you have
to keep the juices
falling, catch what
comes out on a
clean sheet like
men did the blood
of virgins after
some wedding



my list of explosive nights with T.K. double locked
in a drawer with a combination lock only I
know the code to. I was his first, maybe his only,
his dynamite baby, wired and sly and calm. At least
until the snake of a brother turned him
in. I've got the lists of targets, the files the
nitroglycerine. There are pipe bombs in my thighs.

Ted always said so, shipwrecking in me so violently
that red beard rubbed my pale skin raw. I wished
he'd bathe, but you can't have everything I used to
sigh. If you knew what I could tell them, shots
he's rigged up of the two of us burning the fuses
in each other with as perect timing as Ted's bombs
going off. He balanced my checkbook, something I

find a chore but he was so good in math for him it
was like breathing. And he planted lilacs for me. He
loved trees but he didn't have any money and tried to con
vince me sauteed squirrels tasted good. I don't think I
could have taken him forever. I always wanted a house with
a yard, tho candles could be, really, they usually were
romantic but when I needed to pluck my eyelashes, or tweeze a

hair I didn't need, give me a florescent light.



how, in my hand,
it was so much
less angry,
more like a scared bird
not the weapon
I'd known
but shrivelling,
scared, a wounded
kitten coiled
into itself, into
my hand as if
it was skin, a
caul it could
find refuge in,
it was no
longer a fist
of blood, punching,
a sword of bone
and because it
seemed to
quiver, dream of
flight I'd
just let it go



When she saw them
squabbling over a
crust she started
shivering. But in

the light she felt
the shadows, how
on their knees, in
the camps the young

and old battered wildly
in mud, for the dry
bread. A mouthful
thrown for hundreds,

the smallest,
the frail trampled.
She said the corn
slid thru her

hands. She couldn't
move, toss a crumb.
They weren't geese,
only men and women

someone dressed in her
sister's clothes,
clawing and scratching,
blood and dust



leans against
panes of glass
that become
a mirror she
moves to. She
walks thru
the looking
glass, becomes
the other woman,
Cice, the one
no one will
stay with,
never the wife
she's been to
her mother,
folding laundry,
bringing apple
tea, but more
like the moon
casting spells,
longed for



He was always typing or
whittling. If it wasn't
the birds in that tiny
cabin, it was him running
thru telephone books,
sending these wooden boxes.
And with no electricity.
The noise went on all
night. The boxes were sort
of pretty. I wanted one for
a jewel box but he just
sneered. He didn't believe
in my dressing up, didn't
even see why I made him
put up that shower in the
back yard. I don't think
he saw me when he stuck
himself in me. I don't think
he saw how bits of hair
and blood would singe walls
when they opened his vicious
gifts. Something wasn't
there in him. He'd spear a
squirrel and the blood would
be dripping all over him --
he just didn't care. He talked
about saving the trees but I
never felt he really saw them,
smelled the blossoms, could
care when it snowed on the
cherry boughs and the petals
and flakes were both falling.
For a while I was flattered
that he wanted me, a waitress
in a crummy grill. I could
tell he was smart, at least
with numbers. First when he
went on about the theory of
sets, I thought he meant my
breasts. When he went on about
number systems, I fell asleep on
the cot. He didn't laugh or
even grin. When I asked him about
the pipe under the bed, or why
he was taking the mail truck --
I thought there was another girl
in town, the corners of his mouth
curled up but it was more like a
sneer of disgust. It was like when
I asked why we never went anywhere,
saw anybody. He walked away, would
not answer. Even I felt like I
wasn't there



its the night of the one ballet class with the
woman who slams her back to when she was 8 and a French
dancer startled the small town with her accent,
plies. And then, like the smell of

violets, disappeared, left green silk and a
tira of mirrors. The mad girl knows she's
older than her mother was in those days but
time becomes a film run backward. Her

mother presses up thru Hebrew books placed in
the grave thru August light. She's in a bed on a saoker,
then she's beginning to leap up the red stool whose paint
no longer's chipped so nothing grey's exposed,

dented. Now her mother's plump again, her
wavy white hair is licorice curls leading
her, down scary fire escapes to where Mrs.
Berger-- still called Ms. Berge-- is tucking

skirts up into her leotard--pas de bouree, jete, like
music in another language that will hypnotise, be like that
cell in the nightingale, Les Syllphides and Waltz of

Flowers locked until, once the mad girl-- even at an age
others would have hung up their toe shoes-- smells the soft
ballet leather, hears the first bars of Humoresque,
knows she's home



She makes it back from
a knotted bracelet
of towns where Leda
left her, kicked her
out. It was too much,
the girl's feathers clotting
on the stove, screwing
up her computer. Leda

thought she could
forget the father's eyes
and wings, forcing and
pinning her. It was
too much, like adopting
a teen age runaway you
might dream you could
help who turn into a

monster. It was her
strength, like her father's.
Leda brought her to the
mall though she's never
been into clothes, squirms
at anything trimmed with
feathers and never likes
clerks cooing over her

long slender neck, her wild
beauty. Yet somehow,
from the Great America's
Mall, deep in Minnesota,
with little more than what's
on her back, she's suddenly
back in Leda's den, her
nose, rose colored, her arms

tired, as if she'd been, yes,
flyng, but straight, direct
to her old room under the
eaves as if some magnetic
cell in her nose, flower shaped
in a separate part of some cell
with a line to her brain, could
navigate, taste the earth's magnetism

under the stars like a radio



at first the candles were romantic. I felt beautiful
believe it or not in that flickering light. Ted
put a board over a cut stump and tho it wasn't
dining in Paris, there was something enchanting.
At first, I guess there is always some mystery
with a new love and he was doubly mysterious.

I never could figure how someone could go to Harvard--
I'd never even met anyone who went to anything more
than a community college and most of them dropped
out. But Harvard. And then Berkeley. I was in awe
and he talked of philosophy. I had no idea what he meant
but it sounded magical. Actually, he didn't seem

to really be talking to me. It was as if some invisible
something was out in the trees and he was going to
make them see things his way, no matter what it took.
I was like water or air, nothing to get in his way or
answer back. I was like the rabbits, the squirrels he
could do what he liked with. It was ok for a while. I

watched him sand wooden boxes by the fire. Sometimes he'd
disappear and come back with scraps of metal, nails, things
in boxes he'd put away in Quaker Oats boxes. I got a
little sick of oat meal and the coarse dry bread he tried
to cook on the grate. Soon everything, my hair and skin
smelled of smoke and fire. Then he stopped bringing wild

roses -- as he did the first day he brought me here. He
never talked much, never answered questions. When he
stopped looking at me, stayed up reading phone books. Phone
books as if they were more interesting than me. I began
to feel like the rabbit fur had been scraped from, devoured
and before there was nothing left of me, while he was sleeping,

I bolted while I could



is doing ads in Brazil in her
underwear whispering, "wear this ...
or else ..." and she wonders if
she's been a bit too reclusive,

too shy, sort of a South American
Emily Dickinson behind if not
New England lace, venetian blinds
in Virginia. A manicurist, she

shrugs, probably makes a lot less
than a whore, especially a
whore doing lingerie com-
mercials and wishes she'd

photographed herself with her
little lost bird, her dick for a
day, her bloody squirmy pigeon.
If she could approach some

Chicago Cutlery, put on a micro
mini, -- her legs she's noticed
are better than Divine's and she
could order a Victoria's Secret

push up or pose like Marilyn on red
satin or silk, pout and whimper, "if
you don't get treated, ladies,
like you're a cut above the rest,

you can make a clean cut of it"



puts her hand up
to the glass,
feels the lilac
branches melt.
Amherst is
lost in silence.
Shadow barriers
go. Her hair
lets go. For
once, she does
not need words.
skin turns
pearl in white
glass within
glass. She is
the other
woman, a
summer about
to end. Her
rose leaves and
jasmine, so
longed for just
because they
won't stay



wild, he'd say unbuttoning my madras
shirt. That was as close as he came to
saying anything loving to me. I took it as
love. He only cared about what nobody could
cage, the wildness of branches. I'm not much
of a looker I know but when the closest he's

come to breasts and lips is Miss April, I'm hot.
You think the cabin was small? All the better
to bury ourselves in each other I say. Ok,
Ted said it. He didn't say much but when he
did it was like those sentences on Jeopardy,
most of it left out and you had to be clever to

fill it in. I liked it that there weren't any
mirrors. I thought my mouth was small and perfect as it was in a blurry photograph from
first grade. I didn't use it much with him except
for, well you know. I hate to say the word.
He read a lot. I'd be there on the cot and see

him hunched over the candles.. Sometimes he
wrote things down and put them in an oat meal box.
He was going to take me down to where his brother
had a place in the mountains where there were herds of
deer and wild boar. Now that Ted is famous, people
want to talk to me. A magazine with near bare beauties

wanted me to pose and they'd give me an airline ticket.
I've never flown. They wrote and asked me embarrassing
things about what Ted did with his, you know. I never
heard some of the words they used. I'd never pose, could
not show my bum of nippies -- not even covered with daisies.
Montana's not like that. My sister says its my chance to

get away. People I've never met call. Lately I have this
dream there's an invisible balloon over my head like
in the comic strips saying "use it or lose it"



There was this
hootch outside in
the trees. When we
came back the old
people were crying.
After that I'd shoot
up all the time, the
little kids pulling
at my knees, crying.
The old women had
popsicle sticks,
they were scraping
pieces of a woman
off the wall. I
could tell that by
the breasts in a
corner. Even the
animals wouldn't
come near us

you see a guy get his
face blown away you
do things you don't
want to think of.
By the sixth day I was
mainlining all the
time. Not to get
high, I didn't want
to feel anything

first you're so
scared then it's
hard to live with
yourself. But I
didn't get hooked
until the hospital
in japan, you
understand they
napalmed us by
mistake. First I
couldn't feel
much. Water won't
put it out. Now
I go out in the
sun and I feel
fire. I wanted to
get off morphine
but they said why
not get unemployment



I brought him the pills. He seemed so depressed.
First I thought it was me, that I disappointed
him, didn't measure up to someone else. Then
he said there had never been no one else really.
I thought it strange but how many women would put
up with no plumbing, no hot water or heat.
If I had stayed, I doubt I'd have made it through

winter. Candle light was ok, romantic at first.
But he wanted me to take my, you know, number two--
keep it and put it on the garden. I couldn't do
that. Camping out was one thing but then I began
to dream of warm bubble baths in a real tub. One
night I woke up, I thought I could smell clean thick

fluffy towels. I always dream about what's lost,
or missing. What never was, I dreamt, every night, of
my mama for three years after she died. Every
night and I dreamt of my dead cat. When I woke up,
and heard the rain, felt the rain -- there were always
leaks in the ceiling and instead of sweet terrycloth,
I was shivering in my stained sweatshirt and that smell

of Ted and me, as if I was homeless on the streets, even
tho the view of pines and the mountains was gorgeous, I
knew I'd sell my soul for good plumbing and I got a
ride with the mail truck into town. In the months since,
I've never dreamed about being there



now her hand trembles
as the flesh she
cupped had and
her legs turn
jelly too. She
wonders if her
grand children
will hear of the
night she couldn't
take any more
and his penis was
like a wounded
enemy soldier,
fierce and
until caught
and then, guiver-
ing, pleading for
a second chance.
Not still in
control it
seemed meek, a
glob of flesh
hardly worth
taking a knife
to, though
attached to its
brigade it roared
like King Kong,
was all gun. When
she had it in her
hand it was like
having her own
pistol. When she
threw it in the
leaves it was like
getting rid of
the murder weapon.



I don't still know what the
truth is or how any detail could
dissolve. In the glass, I'm the
woman holding her mother's
hair in thin, blue black curls
that never would lose their mid-
night. I could be saving it,
saving incense, the blue sandals
for when she got back, some
thing to bring rose to her cheeks
as the last gifts hadn't. Somehow
in the blur of Otter Falls
someone in my clothes is sure
she will open the door the glass
handle falls from and I bring her
hair and shoes back to her body.
She will wait as she did near
the phone, bring a glass of water.
Her eyes are camouflaged under
the boughs of the apple that grew out
of concrete where nothing should



He wrote a farmer,
I saw it in the
paper, down in
Terliqua. Maybe
that was what he
was writing those
nights I tried to
sleep and moths
were buzzing the
candles. But I
don't think so.
He had theories,
ideas, not for me,
not for my sort
of woman with
clove nipples and
a behind, some
thing he loved to
clutch. Which is
saying a lot for
a man who never
seemed to want to
hold on to any
thing. When you
hear about the
blond surfer guy
spraying bullets
in Tanzania, what
Ted did doesn't
seem so bad. I
never was afraid.
He must have had
a reason



for weeks she's been trying to imagine
the daughter she never had and this
seems totally unconnected tho
maybe she thinks somehow they're

linked. Still, it seems a bit
absurd nothing she would be into
but then it starts to grow on her
and she thinks of what it could

lead to, begins to swagger a
little, get an attitude as she
starts to elbow thru places she
wouldn't have entered. She doesn't

know it's a penis she feels
start to grow - it's like suddenly
carrying a loaded revolver, as if
she's got power, concealed, that no

one's on guard against, some
charm she can finger as she
moves through strangers, enters
vaults where jewels are locked,

emeralds, rubies, glittering and she
knows with one move she could blast her
way in, open and just take the booty,
leave only a puff of white dust



I thought that was why
he wanted me. I'm Gitana,
the Unibomber's woman.
Or girl, really. I was
only 17. He heard me humming
in the bleached grass on a
road off a road into town.
I had my guitar, it was
in my hippy stage-- long
hair down past my ass crack.
He liked that. It was longer
than his but I think what he
liked most was when he heard
my Spanish accent. Or the gold
hoops I took from Mama. I
think they were the bright
ring on a carousel he'd
never lurched for. He sure
came on strong for someone
everybody says is so shy.
Maybe I wasn't real
threatening, you know, my
feet were kind of muddy and
I never went to college so
when he threw his bike off in
the dead lilies and I saw
his Harvard ring, the first
thing I saw, I mean he was so
tall I had to look up at him.
And I did. At least for a while.
He didn't have a bad voice
but he'd only sing in Spanish.
Working songs, songs about
migrant workers. He used to
tell me he was one, travelling
around the country and planting
what he could. I thought he
was kidding. Now I know what
he dreamed would explode into



I think how she'd
have been out there
in the blue duster
I got to replace one
full of cigarette
scars, her blue
sandals now in my
closet drenched with

dew. She'd be a bit
tentative at first,
remember how the
geese came at her in
New Hampshire when
her curls were still
black and she could
sprint up Beacon St.

Now she'd stand at
the edge, marvel at
ducks and herons,
birds that can fly
wherever they choose
and not be grounded
as she takes her
medicines, sighs
for days when smoking

was glamorous, shakes
her head over a
body that doesn't
do what it could as
she reaches into the
bucket, scatters
corn on the water
and waits, like a

tree waiting for leaves
of wild colors, for
the geese to float closer,
stir things up, muddy
water she doesn't want to
see her reflection in



There were traces, even before blood
leaves fell from the oak, the feathers
began to move closer. There were always some
in the grass the mallards and wild
geese grazed in. But these were totally

white, smelling vaguely of roses. First
I thought the scent was my own skin. Or the
tea roses in the garden. But something wilder
mixed in. I could feel a shadow, even in the
brightest light, something like me but not

me. Sometimes in the mirror. I feel her pale
eyes right behind me like a daughter I never
chose. If I knew Morse code, maybe I'd have
understood the tapping on the glass attnight. One
morning an envelope with no postage appeared on

the stairs and handwriting I had to put up
to the mirror to read said, "Leda's daughter,"
and I thought of the feathers rising up
thicker, piling against lawn chairs on the deck
until the sun goes. I think of a woman raped

by a swan, her face white as lilies. Some
thing dissolving the way men melted, snow on
the battlefields in Fredricksburg. The
flutter of wings and claws become shadows,
the deepest black. Even now, this long later,

it fluttters over the grass, wild to
soar above earth her mother was ground into,
to use the wings that used her, soar above
everything she's heard the stories of to
redefine ravishing



they expect me, his short
term girl friend, to be
as inscrutable and
strange. I think inscrutable
is a word-- it sounds like
one Ted would use. Anyway,
they like probing, hunting
for clues. Newsmen, everyone.
It's not fun, not a chase
if it's out in the open.
It's the hunt they're wild
for, the hunt and a few clues.
Some figure I was conned,
taken advantage of. Others
want to think I was drugged
and raped. Or hypnotised. Like
some of them were in that
downstate cult. They wonder
how I could go from selling
cold cuts over a counter to
whole weeks without a bath on
his cot. They want something
bizarre, how he put a bag over
my head or had a gun. But it
wasn't much. It wasn't that
interesting. He was hungry. I
had what he needed. We went
to his house. I could make up
whips. I could say he wrapped
his penis in leaves and gun
powder. But really, nothing
seems more strange, mysterious
to them than that everything
with Ted was so ordinary



walks thru the
mirror, could be
Alice feeling the
glass melt away.

One step and
sky's close. The
bright silver
mist coats her,

a pearly sheen
others are sucked
into and tho they
may leave, what

they've seen in
the glass of her
will perfect her



it's not just the lilies of the field that seem to glow
at this touch, but hyacinth leaves, jasmine, chrysanthemums.
He watches birds cluster in the saw toothed leaves
sucking what looks like thick blood. When he moves under
the branches, berries fall into his pocket, jewels he'll pass

out to beggars near Logan Circle when he hikes into town.
Nothing doesn't make him stop, startled by beauty, the
narcissus exploding on the hill even with snow in the valley,
radiant and sweet as the first time it blossomed when a
beautiful princess was abducted and, Jesus heard, Zeus brought the
flower from the underworld and when it opened, black horses leaped
up with a chariot to bring the beauty to his brother. Jesus
isn't so sure, but he picks the blossoms for the hooker in the
street to cover her bare nipples, shield them from the wind and
lecherous eyes and then he gathers red anemone, knows how to cure

with words, help the delirious and nearly dead. With each drip of
blood, more flowers bolted up. In another story, Venus finds her lover
but its too late, his severed penis had run off and became his son.
Jesus always wondered about this myth, if it connects with his being the
son of a pretty famous father but decides to take it as a story. "No man

can serve two masters," and J.C. just lets the beauty and sweetness wash against
him, like the lips of the lost women he burns to redeem, let experience joy and
passion when they told him, as if he was the first man who opened his eyes and
saw the sun in them



they're afer me. It's kind
of flattering. A girl who
never even took her G.E.D.
There's people wanting to
talk to me, even pay me for
things I've said. One wants
to dress me as a mountain
man's woman, whatever that
means. I wanted to wear
something pink, some fuzzy
angora sweater. It's my
one chance. Let's face it,
I'm no beauty. I'm fat.
But for Ted, I was Miss April.
He had the same glasses, all
scratched and held on with
tape that I see he had in
the 60s. It's in the paper.
He was good looking then and
looked clean. To tell you
the truth, I'd have preferred
to go out for a few drinks,
have him take a bath. But
Ted loved the trees. At least
he didn't want me to dress
up in chains and leather or
beg me to leave my honey patch
alone until it smelled like
rancid lard. When this quiets
down, I'm going to get me a
secretarial school degree,
better myself, say to hell
with what reporters write
about me. If I come back in
another life, I doubt it will
be as his girlfriend

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