Lyn Lifshin, US




from Race Track Poems


Have You Ever Wondered?


asked your request
for a last meal,
could you come up
with something? I mean
something you’d care
in your last hours
of breath? Wouldn’t you
want to smell night
air, or listen to
coyotes, goose music
in the distance, feel
rain on your skin? But
a meal? Would you
care if steak or terror
slid down your throat?
And really, how could
you swallow? Your
last hours, slicing a
medium rare? Wouldn’t
you want music? Lips
you won’t touch
again? On your lips?
Hot Worcestershire?
What are you thinking,
the lethal dose loaded
or the electric chair
revved up and you’d
be thinking do I want
mashed or baked?
Wouldn’t you rather
close your eyes and
remember your Mama’s
“it’s ok,” or the music
of the body’s breath?



The Family Shoe


or was it stone? Or
shore? Scratched
in the dark near the
bed in blackness
when I was sure it
meant everything
that mattered, like
lips after too much
wine that, in the
light, don’t even
seem familiar. Family
shoe? I couldn’t have
been thinking of the
old lady living in
one with more kids
than she could handle?
Or shore? The family
as a cove? Something
I too rarely felt,
often the opposite.
But family stone?
In the light all I can
think of is grave
stone, not ruby, the
jewel my sister and I
share, all we share
these days. Or “store.”
There was one once and
now it isn’t, Lazarus
Dept overlooking the
rail tracks, the creek and
the 5 to Dime with its
spiral staircase my
sister and I hid in the
clutter of, too young
yet to wait on snobby
Cape Dunmore brats
from the city who wanted
Ship ‘n Shore blouses
and shorts I refolded
hour after hour unaware
of my tight perfect skin
I’d later mourn and long
for, only looking ahead
for when things would be different



Have You Ever Read Passionate Poems


poems so erotic and tense,
not just nights with a stranger
poems but long married
love, no lust poems and felt,
just felt somehow you weren’t
quite with it? Fell short?
Come on admit it, have you
ever felt as turned off as walking
thru a sex shop to find fur
crotches, crotch-less pants,
more uncomfortable than sexy,
dirty as carrots jerked out of
earth where they’d been in
darkness, earth still clinging.
Haven’t you, be honest, felt
what was forbidden turned you
on more, the press of a thigh
in a smoky café, Austin, some
one you’d never stand near
brushing your teeth and flossing?
Haven’t you ever felt the act was
as little different than being one
of the girls in a whorehouse?
Putting on a show when you
want to sleep and dream of some
one faceless doing what seemed
too clear for magic?



Not Feeling Like Writing Any Love Poems


tho I want to feel like I do.
Longer ago than I’ve
known the one I’m with,
it wasn’t the moist gasp
on streets I’d the feel
of his hand on my
neck at the book sale,
fingers on what aches and
the sound of the garage
door opening, how he
sings “I’m home,” at the
stairs with ginger muffins,
pears. I’ve too often needed
to know weekends would
not be alone, am too
tired of putting up a mask
for men who hardly
know me. When a friend
dresses in a g string tinsel
and cheetah pasties to
add spice, charm the man
she knew as a kid or
read of old marrieds
thrashing in smell and wet
skin down there, sperm
and semen, beloved
perfume, I am a ghost
looking down at somebody
in or out of my clothes,
my body, moving
by rote



     When The Man In A Motorized Wheel Chair At The Book Fair Picks Up My Books


then sets it back down,
un-bought, stained with
some gook in his hands,
I feel pissed off. It it’s
broken you ought to buy
it. I feel sorry for this
bearded man, he could
play Santa Claus more
easily than negotiate the
narrow aisles he blocks,
keeping someone on their
way to the hors d’oeuvre
table on hold, too polite
to ask him to move.
Luckily it was a small
book but one I didn’t
have many copies of.
Maybe because he can’t
move easily, he sticks his
finger in the hummus dip
and couldn’t clean them.
I’m not sure the bathroom
doors were big enough for
his huge contraption to
get thru. “Do you write.” I
ask and he grins, “No, but
I read a lot.” He asks if I
am Barbie, still waving my
red Barbie book. Clearly
he doesn’t know my name
and has never heard of
Barbie. These sales are a
little like being brought out
by a madam in a line. You
don’t know if anyone will
want you or what you’ve
got. I could kiss each buyer
as if they cherished part



December 2, After The First Day Out Of The House


I could be the
fish who climbed

from the sea into
the razzle dazzle of light

down red brick streets.
Thai spices perfume

them, U Street rocks.
The young on dormers,

on bar stools, their
music spilling into U St,

chestnut smells,
laughing instead of




December 2


after weeks in the cove
of the house

cold grass walk
to the metro

Something inside me, a
fawn that wants

to run. What was
so ordinary

feels foreign, new.
In the metro a woman holds

a mound that starts to chirp,
staggers thru the aisles

as the train lurches thru
tunnels and then we

are pouring of stairways
of stone on to U street

hickory, chestnut, sweet
wood scent, a cap of stars

blue jeaned teens and
sequined shirts

shaking their booty



December 2


the first night
snow’s predicted

abandoned nests
hang in branches

as if luring
what sang in them home

that jade fire gone,
scent of old leaves, dry

roses spills east.
Last summer’s petals,

moths in the wind.

Deep shadow early.
Willow tossed hair.

Bruise blue clouds, the
long gowns of their

bodies against
onyx, sequins



December 7


nests snow hoods

at 2 am, geese

hooves on
iced grass

wind chimes
under snow scrim

Deep in some
guava belly, what

will live
to glint

in slate waves.
All night deer,

stars and silver,
stair ways to sleep

with no rungs









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