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Lyn Lifshin


Champlain, Branbury, the Lakes at Night

always women in the
dark on porches talking
as if in blackness their
secrets would be safe.
Cigarettes glowed like
Indian paintbrush.
Water slapped the
deck. Night flowers
full of things with wings,
something you almost
feel like the fingers
of a boy moving, as if
by accident, under
sheer nylon and felt
in the dark movie house
as the chase gets louder,
there and not there,
something miscarried
that maybe never was.
The mothers whispered
about a knife, blood.
Then, they were laughing
the way you sail out of
a dark movie theater
into wild light as if no
thing that happened



Thirty Miles West of Chicago

paint chips slowly.
It’s so still you
can almost hear it
pull from a porch.

Cold grass claws
like fingers in a
wolf moon. A man
stands in corn bristles

listening, watching
as if something
could grow from
putting a dead child

in the ground



September 26, 1996

this morning the pond
looks like marble. Rose
and charcoal dissolving
to dove, to guava, rouge.
Only mallards pushing
holes in the glass, so
unlike the pond, deep in
trees, almost camouflaged,
startling as coming upon
your reflection in a mirror,
just there under trees and
the wooden bar and the
driftwood benches blackly
jade with pines dripping
into it, shadows close to
my hair. What I didn’t have
blinded me so I hardly saw
the small birds, blue,
pulling out of moss and
needles as if reaching into
the dark for their color



Late November

one minute, the sun was out, it was fall.
Geraniums under a quilt last night, a
           blotch of red opening.
On the front step what looked like lint
has small pink claws and feet.
Next the sky was the color of lead.

Geraniums under a quilt last night
like a child you’ve tucked in
or a body wrapped in the earth under leaves.
In the swirl of sudden snow, what
was left of the headless fur blows west

Like a child you’ve tucked in
whatever was living, a just born
squirrel I suppose, hardly a living thing
           except for feet.
In fifteen minutes, the light came
back, cars stopped sliding

Whatever was living. Or just born
must have felt the wild snow was a warning.
I thought of the lover wrapped in dark
cloth and left in the leaves while, not knowing,
I took a ballet class. The geraniums

are still under a blue quilt this Tuesday.
One minute the sun was out, it was fall



Heron on Ice

Pale salmon light,
9 degrees. Floor
tiles icy. Past
branches the
beaver’s gnawed,

at the small hole
the heron waits,
deep in the water.
Sky goes apricot,
tangerine, rose.

Suddenly a dive,
then the heron
with sun squirming
in his mouth, a
carp that looks a

third as big as he
is gulped, then
swallowed, orange
glittering wildly
like a flag or the

wave of someone


Just out from Lyn Lifshin: The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian (Texas Review Press). Also just out: Another Woman Who Looks Like Me, from Black Sparrow at Godine. She has over 120 books and has edited four anthologies. Find her website at www.lynlifshin.com.
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