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Lyn Lifshin

Lyn Lifshin at <i>Cold Comfort</i> book signing Lyn Lifshin's last book, Cold Comfort from Black Sparrow Press, one of a series of books they will be doing, was a finalist in the Patterson Award. Other finalists include Maxine Kumin, Philip Levine and Marie Howe. Her next book, Before It's Light, will be published
by Black Sparrow in 1999.

Lyn Lifshin has written more than 100 books and edited 4 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."

Contact Lyn at onyxvelvet@aol.com

See more of Lyn's work at www.lynlifshin.com


and feels so
hollow inside,
as if all she's
done is change
her clothes.
She wonders a
bout the women's
movement, maybe
she frowns it's
the change and
she hasn't even
had a baby, had a
period, a
hair that was
not in place.
Perfection that
can be shelved,
one yank and I'd
be bald, naked.
She flips thru
chapters on
neurosis, wonders
if it's hormones
she lacks. Where
she's been, hardly
seems to matter
:the beach, Sun
Valley, Spain.
It's all facade,
going thru the
motions. What
did a wedding
get me she groans
I never was free
moving, as they
said in 1975
but empty, full
of holes - some
thing just for
someone else
to collect
or abuse


that they never were supposed to call it
the bomb but a gadget or gimmick, how they
practiced that summer like boys in a circle
jerk she thinks, dropping replicas

of bombs, called them little pumpkins.
She reads how they were up before sun
rise, the sky crystal clear, a huge red
ball of rising sun and how he watched

the Enola Gay slowly open its bay doors,
and let go thinking it's too late now.
there's no string attached, there's
no way to bring it back. It starts

sounding like he's talking about an
orgasm, it seems weird. The way it's
out there. She reads mission as emission
begins to think only a penis or

someone connected to one could get in
to this in these terms: the tail
shaking through superheated air, the
vertical cloud rising upward.

Sure sounds sexual she thinks. Even
the term Little Boy, that gun
barrel-like cylinder she wouldn't resist
having for a day to try to feel what

it would be like to hit the target,
start the chain reaction. She might get
a sense of that power, control, of that
ride on what could vaporize, her

hand on the throttle, shifting for
herself as she holds the course
with a lot of flak all around her
as she lurches, lets go -- everything

below bursting, all flash and fire,
blinding lights and trembling in waves
that just keep coming


use this condom
and then send it on
to the name at the
bottom. You will
be rewarded in
15 days with 11
used safes. Do not
discard. One man did
not believe in this and
a wasp the size of
New England invaded
his house. Now he won't
need more. Your luck
will change soon.
20 condoms won't be
enough for one night:
women will flock to
you as if the tips
were coded with
something they've
felt and need
again. You can't
lose. Put this down
and let your dog eat
it-- one man did
and his penis withered
to a thimble of dusty
skin, a feather
crows swooped down
to use for their nest.
That was the last
he saw of it. Send 75
used condoms. Your
hemorrhoids will
disappear. Only your
wallet and your
penis will get bigger.
Another man who threw
this chain away lost
everything that extended
more than half an inch
from his body to sharks.
And when he finally
sent it on, fingers and
thighs grew back, his
nose and ear, even a
nub of a penis.
This is no joke


She knows the tricks, how to
lure and dazzle, soothe aching
hearts with a touch, bring
joy and passion. Not a bad
goal J.C. murmurs, noticing
his followers have gone
or have their own side trips,
hating the homeless,
screaming at whores,
wanting to take food
stamps away from babies.
He knows if the religious
right saw him on the street
they would look at him with
disgust, sure he's a lazy
pan handler, a hippie, a
bum. He sees meanness in
those who wave his name
on a flag, feels more
compassion in the Madam,
more tenderness, more joy.
She takes the time to
please another, gives of her
body and her time unlike
some of the hot dog rabble
rousing religious right
guys. J.C. dials, gets her
answering machine, all
softness and fluttering,
not stones and swords
and guns and he thinks how
together they might teach
something about opening
to joy, about the deepest
communion and what being
entered by the Beloved
really means


like someone who feels
she'll be pressed in
the dark of earth
who walks with all
her windows open,
nude, skin flapping
like fingers signing
in a house of blind
men. She cuts maples
to stubs to let sun
eat her, leaves
shutters open in rain
to feel her hair flow
like linden dust,
doesn't want anything
heavy as earth on her
yet. She sleeps on
top of a pile of blue
quilts as if her life
was leaves resting on a
lake fish drift up
in thru dark water


all the way down the
sloped hill under
the white pines
You should pick it when
the sun is low and night's
water is wild on the
red grass don't kick up
the sweet lace twist
or crunch out the smell
But pick it while it's
sucking up afternoon
light its smell on
your fingers like
a lover, pin it to
beams in rooms apricot
light will sneak thru
glazing bare walnuts
knowing the leaves
still wait in snow
full of what drew
you to it


Ice comes undone
Skin shining and
hair full of

women spill out of
offices their
bones whispering

Glazed orchards
and vines coming back
Green is under the
snow the women's

arms seem to open
as if to lift them past
fluorescent air
toward whatever

are hidden from them
Later nearly
blinded by water and

light they'll move
a 1 o'clock wave
their hair folding
back into

rooms of
machines and paper. But
no desks can
hold such

dreaming blood,
drunk on the poems
sun makes
in their bodies


lips remind us of those
lips down there you
said once, kissing the
back of an envelope with
red gloss. Your mirror
had a wreathe of men
drawn by the suck of
your soft whispers, a
tongue they read the
braille of. Cold comfort
you wrote me more
years later than we
were then. Still, I
envied how their
mouths looked for
any mouth of yours,
the silk and slippery
so many thought came
from your heart. You
had parasols from
exotic night clubs I
was insulted I looked
too young to be served
in. Lara, your room
always smelled of
scent, while mine
reeked of paint and
glue for some science
project. You took
so many sailors'
pea coats in your
hand, pulled them to
you. Now I hear you
had enough, as if you
outlived your own
curiosity and what I
longed for put you
to sleep. None of
those lovers could
fill you. At the end,
you left even your
children as if every
thing stuffed into you
gnawed until what
glittered was like a
mine so scooped of
rubies it collapsed


She's got her
bride clothes
on the floor her
can can skirt,
pale ruffly fish
net tights and
a cameo choker
tossed around the
bed like a moat.
Now she's got
the remote control
clicker and can
switch and change,
not be at someone
else's whim, her
body twisted,
dressed and
undressed, a slave
to another's
fingers as if her
ankles were bound
in leather, chained,
legs spread apart
on some pilary.
Travel around the
World with Barbie
stamped on her
forehead in catalogues
from Sears. She is
sick of having
a rod jammed up in
side her, of being
boxed in with a
hair brush that
usually goes where
it shouldn't. She
wants to lie in
tv light not have
to hide what she is
missing: a belly
button, skin that
smells like skin,
doesn't want to
have to keep smiling
as any stranger who
buys her twists her
arm out of its socket
or throws her out

Copyright © 1999. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Duplication of this poetry and/or art without permission of the author/artist is forbidden under copyright law. Please ask permission if you wish to use for non-commercial purposes
  Big Cats in Snow Tuesday, July 11, 2000