ISSN 1545-2859




               LYN LIFSHIN

Venice Daphne Runs Backwards

the way that sandpiper runs
as close to the water
and then knows, pulls
back, but not
before he's dug
into sea grass. I'm
walking out of branches,
wood, Daphne
run backwards, my own
breakwater this time.
Blue shells, sun
cupped in the arm of some
one who doesn't own
or want to own me.
The leaves he pulls from
my skin are stained
with the verbs of someone
who didn't see what she could.
Salt air chews them.
We dream of Nantucket,
wine in a grey wood
someday. You know I never
wanted a man just
for myself
but didn't know that.
Gulls. Old women
unbutton black coats,
feel the light, dreams moving
in their throat like birds.
They are willow roots
hanging on under
the sand, pushing deep.
In this light, if they
were to unloosen a few
pins they would grow into
their hair, birds blown in the
sun toward cities rarely
found on maps

In Venice, That November and December

17 cats ran in and
out windows that
never closed as Hari
Krishna jingled up
from Muscle Beach.
The house I stayed in
quieted by 4 in the
afternoon when every
one left for work. I
curled in a stranger's
yellow terry cloth
robe as if to soak up
some sun color. I
hoped I'd be charmed
in tight jeans and fur
jacket, imagined them
sliced from my back,
butterfly wings, as
angels and truckers
howled foxy and pulled
up close enough to
touch my arms clutch-
ing a bottle of Chianti
or scotch I hoped
would help me flare
and glitter like some
blood sun the Pacific

A Woman Goes Into the Cemetery

disappears behind granite
and is never heard from
again. We don't quite
believe this. She could
have gone to the museum
or called her girlfriend
to meet her for lunch
but instead took the
metro to the cemetery
as if to lie down with the
dead one who always said
her lips brought him
back to life. It was a warm
day for December even
tho it was the day of
the least light. She was
wearing the denim mini
I had in my closet,
her hair almost as long
as red as mine. Some might
suppose I'm that woman,
it seems there are clues.
But listen, the buried
man was already dead to
me before he slept
under the grave in this
city and the me who would
have banged myself
raw on his metal
door had already grown
skin too thick to feel

Dialing Your Number

something froze as if
I'd walked into a
calculous test in
some dream with
a wrong number and
I'm that man sing

ing Ave Maria in
a Nazi camp over
a quarry in WW2 who,
just as he hits
the highest note
feels the mountain

ledge he stands on
blasted away. I'm
astonished the number
is not gone, disconnected
as only my leaving
town, you leaving air

waves seemed able to
do. When it rings
and rings, I'm flung
back in a history
that could be distant
as when a woman with

long hair unloosens it
under Doric columns.
Your fingers, part of
me then, it seemed,
distant now as the
thought of buffalo

on the moon that you
know aren't grazing
there but in some
clouds thru the gauze
of 2 am on the wind
blown lace curtain

you see from the foot
of the bed reflecting
the stunned look in
their eyes

The First Time

not in a marriage bed but
in a motel I could walk to
from that raised ranch my
husband and I played house
in. Virgins for years after
the wedding until I taunted
a man with words, the only
way I knew, got him to
slither in broken shoes from
another coast. I didn't know
if he really was an ex-con.
He looked like a stud. He
couldn't believe he had me
first, rocked back on his
knees in the motel as cars
honked by. I didn't know if
he could kill me, what I'd
get from him. Or that I
would not feel different,
would not feel much. I
looked in the mirror, felt
his tongue along my mouth.
Already I was longing for
quiet afternoons alone
while this large man who
wouldn't fit anywhere
slogged a beer, grinned,
said he kept tasting me

Copyright © 2004 lyn lifshin. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.