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Poetry by Lyn Lifshin 

Lyn is an accomplished poet, responsible for over 100 books.  Winner of the Jack Kerouac Award, among others, she's been Poet In Residence at a few colleges, taught writing courses, and has been editor for four women writers anthologies.  Visit her site.



© 2009 Lyn Lifshin







I’m wrapping things in mother’s house up,

sealing the calm, wrapping what’s break

able in towels. I stuff newspaper

from 1947 in with the silver.

My fingers ache from folding and

pressing what ever I can touch

in a box. My neck and

shoulders, ankle and feet hurt. The

boxes are piled so high

they’re close to toppling. I’m

drained. Just see the cardboard

tilting toward me. I think of her, my

mother on the bed in the room

where the rooms are

wounded. She is wading through

the packed boxes, waiting

for the next move. Then I take an oblong

box lighter than all the others, big

enough for two huge dolls,

but light, as if full of

air. Then I realize it is my

mother, lighter than the clothes and

stuff animals, lighter than the

red whale-shark

that floated in some pool

I lost the outline of, knotted or

torn so the air leaked,

would stay in as long as what

was a knot held the

last air from escaping, like my

mother, now light as air








one woman e mailed her neighbor

“go outside Right Now. Look

into the dark.” In another park,

 a man flicked a pen light, waited

for a signal


I walk back from the metro and

the grass is rhinestone sparkling,

its as if stars had landed close

to my tights


1/40th of a candle. It’s seduction

and rejection, codes and

code breaking, mating and

eating alive


not that different from when

my ex-con lover lived

in the trees behind my house,

the poet with his books of

the letters of Katherine Mansfield,

his long trip to mate,

hiking across country


with broken shoes. His letters,

firefly babble, flashes of conversation,

talking as animals usually do\

about sex


His bottle of Chateau y Kempe,

a code, blink blink and some

dashes, bliiiiink, blink. And so

when the motel money he had ran

out, my first—tho I was married

years, I’d wait at the bathroom


window with the door closed

so my husband couldn’t see

and turn the lights on and off

to let him know I was there

and I was thinking about,

was wanting him


like the life of a male fire fly

his life was not easy. Stealing

bottles of wine off porches at nearby

diners and running out to get his

wallet and never reappearing.


Some female fireflies devour

the male. Some fire flies must like it.

If I didn’t flash the light so he

could light his lighter in return

he thought I’d fallen out of

love, if it was love not just a


tiny flame. Some male fireflies

are better than others. No surprise.

Like lightning bugs, we were working

with a time limit. Winter was coming

and he couldn’t just stay in the

leaves, the snow was coming. My


husband thought we were going thru

so much food. Like fireflies, he was

better than others. The ladies went wild.

Enough to have him for a season

bringing a little light into the

suburbs, a dazzling connection,

best, or only, in utter darkness







tucked in safe. You’d

think it was something

growing inside me. Small,

only a few letters that stayed

diamond and wild. There,

in a file, where I could

touch them, have them safe.

From the ones who would

hold me, at least in poems,

as I held them, then elusive,

but I had their words.

How one touched my

skin on a rug that looked

like water. I never worried

the slim envelopes would

be gone. There and then

not there. Everything that

can’t live lives in poems.

Everything that can’t

still be lives in poems








All work is property of Lyn Lifshin.




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