Poems From Lyn Lifshin


I think of her watching the
last rose petals on a
day like today, say deep
August, browning like
an old rubber doll
she might have left
in an attic in Canada.
I think of her pressing
skin against glass, a sense
of summertime falling,
that sense of fall
that that Sylvia Plath
wrote of. Or maybe some
freeze frame of what
is going, moving on.
I see her pale arms,
sea mist velvet jeans
hugging hips that
never will not be boyish.
In the wind, gone
voices move close
to her cheek bones. In
this frame she could be in
a fancy 30’s gown. Some
thing is raw, some thing
is broken. It has to be
a full moon
etching black water.
She has to know that
from what is torn
and scarred, some
thing almost too
exquisitely beautiful
is already stirring,
some thing dark
as coal becoming
diamond, insistent,
dying to be born


Sometimes I think of her
as a wild foal, hardly
touching down in prairie
glass, Saskatewan. Or a
sea nymph, her gaze
glued to the deepest
emerald wave, a Silkie
luring men she can’t stay
with long. There she
is, on a seaweed jeweled
rock, her songs, ribbons
of melancholy lassoing you,
pulling on your heart.
Some say Bessie Smith
left even or especially good
men to have something
to make her songs
burn the hottest blues. I
think of Joni knowing
what can’t stay, what is so
broken it catches the
light like torn bottles
the ocean’s turned
to sea glass jewels, that
what dissolves
behind you in the rear
view mirror haunts,
knife- like as her trees,
slashes of wild paint
shivering in a naked row,
such exquisite beauty
in wreckage


“raw and direct, what in
her life is really happening.”
I read this of a new young
star. Someone says she
makes you feel like she’s
your best friend, that she’s
gone thru hell and come
out as a beauty, her
losses honed into words
that touch you. Of course
she reminds me of Joni
pulling from the pain
of those men who called
her from the harbor,
kissed her with their
freedom, what
shimmers like light
thru stained glass. How
she transforms the
blackness, holes in the
air, the ache. I think
of her making jewels
from those who
climbed mountains,
calling out her name,
leaving their stain,
of her stalking images
of dreams flying with sea
gulls and sand castles,
worlds they can’t share.
Sand castles crumble.
From what isn’t said
she spins magic,
words that hold you,
will be enough to
keep you as long as
you long to


When I see hers
sprawled across the album,
explosive brush strokes,
guava, blood and green,
her wild petals not
connected to any
stem. I can’t help but
feel those slashes
of light in your poems,
how sometimes if seems
your words could be mine.
I’ve heard those lost
lovers in the wind. Maybe
I heard then last night
when I couldn’t
sleep. I think of the
photograph of you with
a rose in your hair. You
could be my sister those
nights when I am the
rose I was named
for, Raisel Devora.
And why wouldn’t some
one pierced by words,
turn addict for a
sense rare as Tea Rose
or Rashimi rose incense.
Those lovers, like
applause: I found them
addictive too. I think of you
criss-crossing the country,
a cigarette dangling,
leather and suede,
tawny earth colors
(you could find in my
closet), eyes few would ever
be as blue as. Aching for
something you can’t
still hold and knowing
from that raw wound, pain
and piercing beauty explodes

At What Café Did You Ask
What Dress I’d Be Wearing

or was it you,
was it casual,
the dress?
After months dark as
the lakes behind the
black horse’s eyes,
the glass of lost beauty,
daze of knowing
what is now
is what I lived for
and still die of memory,
of the You on the brown couch,
how you came to me already damaged,
and how the way
something starts to bloom
too soon, and snow punishing it:
silence, baby.
Don’t look for another café.
There is none.
There is nothing.


About Lyn Lifshin

A former Ray’s Road Review contributor, Lyn Lifshin has written more than 125 books and edited four anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the U.S.A, and her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women. She has given more than 700 readings across the U.S.A. and has appeared at Dartmouth and Skidmore colleges, Cornell University, the Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library. Lyn Lifshin has also taught poetry and prose writing for many years at universities, colleges and high schools, and has been Poet in Residence at the University of Rochester, Antioch, and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For her absolute dedication to the small presses which first published her, and for managing to survive on her own apart from any major publishing house or academic institution, Lifshin has earned the distinction “Queen of the Small Presses.” She has been praised by Robert Frost, Ken Kesey and Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders has seen her as “a modern Emily Dickinson.” Her website can be found at http://www.lynlifshin.com/.