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Lyn Lifshin

Mallets Bay


the sun swallowed by

Lake Champlain. My

sister and I on the

screened in porch

hearing a story that

will scare us even

after we can't still

remember it. The

cousins are laughing.

A smell of damp

flannel and smoke.

Fireflies in the

plum leaves and my

mother's cigarette

on the glider next

door, a firefly we

can't stop watching



Downstairs the Cats


were giving birth in

the coal bin. My sister's

birthmark grows under

her yellow hair. In a

month, the water in the

cellar would be rising,

my mother keep sending

brownies to Fort Devon

while one cat carried four

kittens between her teeth

up the wet stairs to the

kitchen as my mother's

hands gnawed each other

at the radio bulletin of

FDR dying. Wind. The

old big brown Zenith,

my mother in heels,

just standing in a

ring of spilled flour



No More Lying on the Chinese Rug


rolling tin foil,

listening for water

in the conch shell.

No more trains, no

more men made out

of clay, no more

Chinese chair with

dragons. No one

singing blue birds

over the white cliffs

of Dover as the sun

falls behind the

hen house. I'm in

Stanny's room. I

know my uncles will

tuck me in, my father

rub my back when

he comes back from

where my sister

is getting ready, is

almost born



Throats Bandaged, My Uncle In A Dark Room


with photographs of

relatives above his

head. Appletree thru

the window. Days

with the door closed.

Then, on the porch,

on the glider. Green

leaves. Spirea. Wicker

gasket, chairs where

he made up verbs

to win word contests,

read about the blood,

the heart, strange

things about the body

in medical books that

grew damp in the

August air, the pages

sticking together. Girls

with damp thighs

opening in the yellow

roses maybe like those

"Dirtie Gertie" drawings

he'd slap me down for

reading on the same

porch so many

years later



Stones In The Driveway


we're in the sun looking

for smooth white pebbles.

Her apron stained with

fudge. My grandmother,

the clay man we made

in the dark green of the

porches loses his legs

in the hot grass. Later she

sings there'll be white

cliffs over in a small bed    

in this blood sun. Thirty

miles north in Burlington

my sister breaks thru

mother's skin



Lake Champlain, Smell Of Oil Cloth


candles in the rain.

We slept in flannel,

marshmallow on our

fingers. Louis Arm-

strong from a hall

across the lake where

my mother danced on

Friday night while the

girl who stayed with

us turned Inner Sanctum

down low and my

sister and I put a glass

against the thin wall,

scared ourselves close

to throwing up. Birch

trees filled with

blood in our dreams

of a murdered 6 year old

under the ferns near

the water




Lyn Lifshin’s “Another Woman Who Looks Like Me” was published by Black Sparrow at David Godine October, 2006. Texas Review published “Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness”. Most recent books: Ballroom, All the Poets (Mostly) Who Have Touched Me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially the Lies and, Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems. Just out, Oct 1,  NYQ  published A Girl Goes into The Woods (400 PAGES!)  Also out recently: For the Roses poems after Joni Mitchell. Just published: Hitchcock Hotel. Also forthcoming: Malala,  Secretariat: The Red Freak, the Miracle, The Tangled Alphabet: Istanbul Poems and Luminous Women: Eneduhanna, Sheherazade, Nefertiti. Her web site:

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