Poetry by Lyn Lifshin

WHEN I READ WHAT PHILIP ROTH SAID

I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer
anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you, it would make life easier. But
discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists

I think, after that night, is
there a hint of my rose scent?
To be discrete, I could say
perhaps I forgot, mixed
up one novelist for another.
Who knows after those
glasses of scotch. Since I
was the only woman at
the colony and I wasn’t quite
twenty, wouldn’t he remember
my still perfect skin before
a car slashed into my and
scalped my forehead? 120
stitches. Of course it might
have been someone more
discrete who saw me in a
dusty rose jersey near a bush
the same rouge, dusky as
a nipple, the inside of
lips. I won’t vow it was
Philip who invited me to his
cabin for a drink and so
nervous—I’d read all his
books and of course knew
his reputation and thank
God had my own story I
hoped would charm, how
in a weird way we were
connected by my ex husband’s
relatives who sold whole
sale artificial limbs. I
told him stories about what
they had said about him
belching in a TV interview
where to their horror he
he drank out of a soda
can. To be discrete, I won’t
tell you the place or the
year or why I couldn’t let
him inside me but to
be a little less so, I will tell
you he told me the bj I
gave him was heavenly

TANGO WITH HIM AND HE LEAVES A STAIN

it’s indelible,
he’s glued to your skin,
then, that staccato
pull away that leaves
dark skid marks.
“dumped by,” I
want to say his name
but it ought to be
on t shirts, a warning,
revenge. He’ll hold
you so close you
can’t breathe, leave
you panting with no
thing but a dark
indigo. Each scar a
Rorschach he was
wild for then
tossed. Wild for
the chase, a hunter, he
sees what he wants
thru the cross
hairs. He uses his
charm like a
gun. He’s a dancer
who can turn. He
moves into you with
his eyes, his
bolero. Everywhere
he was you are
not what
you were


WHEN IT’S ENOUGH TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM

with him. When it’s
enough to feel his
skin thru velvet,
my west touching
his east. Of course
the blues will follow
but when it’s enough,
the fantasy and the
smell of oozing sap,
cherry snow lasting
longer than he could.
So there won’t be
hanky panky, no
thing with blooms
like the Japanese pear.
When on the metro
it’s his eyes. When
I’m in danger
of missing my
stop what use to
write a love poem
when it’s fantasy. Or
maybe, yes, that is
the right time

THE SOMEHOW I CAN’T GET THE DREAM RIGHT
POEM, MAYBE BECAUSE I DON’T WANT IT OVER

when I couldn’t get him,
have him, couldn’t get
him out of fantasy.
When I was in the car
or at the barre in ballet.
When I knew. Not like
I could say he has left
the building and let
him blur seeing him
almost each night at
ballroom, his thigh
sliding up my thigh
in a class or two a
week. Like alcohol
to someone drying
out. Awake, nothing
was as if could be.
To escape in sleep
was hardly enough
and then as magnolias
began, after the
margaritas, after
stinging needles in
bad dreams, suddenly
I’m as summery in
as a blooming magnolia.
My legs have lost
their scars, my hair
is thicker, red. Even
the bottom of smell of
deep rose that will,
if the dream goes on,
wrap around him as I
still can barely
fantasize 


THE MAD GIRL FEELS HIM IN HER FINGERS, HER SKIN

that almost pain chill,
a needle in her arm.
If you haven’t felt
it you don’t know
her. She wants more
and more. Wants
to audition for
flamenco at 2 AM
in a sketchy
part of town,
would break up
your family if she
could but only
for the lava
inside her. “Foxy
Lady” they yelled
at Muscle Beach.
Some days they
still do. What she
aches for is elusive
as a man made
of snow. Her first
poems had that
image in them. What
was intoxicating
and then melting
quickly, snow
flaked beauty, there
and then not. Now
only she warms
the place filled by
her body. All
she is missing and
starved for is
what she
can’t have
 

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About Lyn Lifshin

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/.