Lyn Lifshin


Sleeping with Lorca


Itís not true, he never chose women.

I ought to know. It was Grenada and

the sun falling behind the Alhambra was

flaming lava. I could say I was

too but some things should be left unsaid.

But I remember his fingers on the buttons

at the back of my neck, my skin burned

as he fumbled with rhinestone and pearls.

I want you breathed into my neck though

perhaps he was whispering Green,

green I want you green. How little he

needed to impress me with his poems.

One English term paper with them and I

was naked, taken. It wouldnít matter if

he had a pot belly or stank of garlic.

My jeans were a puddle around my

knees. I was the gored bull, hypnotized

by moves Iíd only imagined but never

believed would enter me. Thereís

more you might coax me to say but

for now, itís enough I can still smell the

green wind, that 5 oíclock in the afternoon

that would never be another time



Do I Have to Really Write About What Seems Most Scary?


Isnít it enough Iíve fought against

it, ballet classes every day,

often more than one. Do I have

to tell you I was stunned by the

letter from a woman who says ďnow

in the gym the men stop looking.Ē  

Do I have to joke ďpull the plug if

I canít do ballet,Ē laugh when a

friend says ď I didnít sleep with him

because Iíd have to get undressed.Ē

Do I have to remember my mother

saying sheíd rather be dead than

lose her teeth? Have to know if I

stay slim, size zero in ultra sexy

Victorís Secret jeans without

more fat my face will look less

lovely. I think of that friend who

says she doesnít worry about what

poem sheíll read but what she

will wear. Another says she wants

plastic surgery but doesnít think

itís right for someone in the arts,

shouldnít she care about loftier things?
I think of another woman who will

only be photographed in certain

positions. Do I have to tell you what

Iím thinking about isnít death?



When I Think of the Dark Mare


of the sickly king

looking for a burial place

among ancient tombs in

the country. When he

finally chose a grave

belonging to a virgin

princess from an old

ancestral clan,

opens the tomb and

the young womanís

remains are touched by

sun, her bones suddenly

change into a black

horse that gallops off in

to the desert. A magician

races after the enchanted

creature and after many

days and many trials

he covered the desert

and comes to grasslands

on the other side where

he discovers the rarest

of treasures: the mare has

led him to the lost keys

of Paradise



Ballet du Maurais


Huge hall, Brahms Hall

40 dancers could easily

move in. I grab my drink,

take an aspirin. Most of

the dancers in their 20's,

donít get the combination.

Some older dancers do.

I quickly learn the steps

are done to the right then

the left then the right

then the left again. One

woman runs for a drink but

the instructor yells some

thing like, ďNo, wait, later.Ē

I havenít had a class for

two weeks so nothing is

sore but Iím out of shape

still he comes up to me, says

ďBon, tres, bon.Ē I feel my

face turn rouge. Iím feeling

Iím the only one tho there

are 40, 50 in the room, ďLyn,Ē

he says, motions for me to

come up to the front. I had

planned to stay in the back

ground, be invisible, just

get thru. But suddenly itís

ďLeeyn, up hereĒ and while

I wasnít sure of the words,

it was clear he picked me to

lead, demonstrate the adagio.

Nothing in the class could get

better I was sure but he kept me

up there, in the center Ė I could

have been on stage. I wanted

everything over to not spoil it.

It was like making love in the dark

with a man who to your astonish-

ment seems to think youíre what

he wants, that youíre the

one so special Ė but you donít

want  to wake up with him

in too bright light after the lull

of candles and wine



I Want to Be Cat Like


wild, nocturnal and sleek, fierce and, strong.

I want to curl, days, in the fork of a red oak,

blend with bark and then, stealthy and wild, set out

for night prowls. I want to hunt in the thickets

of brittle roses, about to pounce. Donít try to

hurt me, Iíll tear your lips and ear, you wonít


forget my fury. No one can tame me, only a special

love has any chance to keep me. Many lust for

my thick fur, silky body. I want to be daring, grow

claws that will leave a mark. If I want to

curl against you, you canít resist tho you know

I can leave without a sound. My origins, unknown


You might have guessed I want to stay but Iím a

vagabond by nature. I want to yowl and hiss, spit at

what doesnít please me, be elusive as steam. I want

to allure, be coy as a 1920's screen idol  in a

pleated skirt. Iíll turn on my mate, after he gives me

what Iím after. Itís my nature. I want to attack, run


faster than lightning, catch what I need on the run.

My fawn skin, long beautiful legs haunting your

dreams as I creep up cautiously and noiselessly to bite

your neck. Be my prey, try to use me, lust for

my fur and not whatís inside it: my teeth will leave a

hieroglyph where your heart was no one still living can


still read


Lyn Lifshin's recent prizewinning book (Paterson Poetry Award) Before Its Light was published Winter 1999-2000 by Black Sparrow Press, following their publication of Cold Comfort in 1997. Another Woman who Looks Like Me will be published by Black Sparrow-David Godine in 2005. ( Also recently published is A New Film About a Woman in Love with the Dead, March Street Press. She has published more than 100 books of poetry, including Marilyn Monroe and Blue Tattoo, won awards for her non-fiction and edited four anthologies of women's writing including Tangled Vines, Ariadne's Thread and Lips Unsealed. Her poems have appeared in most literary and poetry magazines and she is the subject of an award-winning documentary film, Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass, available from Women Make Movies. Her poem "No More Apologizing" has been called "among the most impressive documents of the women's poetry movement" by Alicia Ostriker. An update to her Gale Research Projects Autobiographical Series, "On the Outside, Lips, Blues, Blue Lace," was published in Spring, 2003. Texas Review Press will publish her poems about the famous, short-lived, beautiful race horse, Ruffian: The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian. New books include When a Cat Dies and Another Woman's Story, Barbie Poems and forthcoming books include Mad Girl Poems and The Daughter I Don't Have. A new collection, Persephone, will be published by Red Hen Press. She is working on a collection about poets, Poets, (Mostly) Who Have Touched Me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially the Lies. For interviews, more bio material, reviews, interviews, prose, samples of work and more, her website is:


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