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Lyn Lifshin: Forced Buds
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Writer’s conference brochure

    Sunny in the new flyer.
    Everybody’s smiling,
    writing under the trees.
    It doesn’t rain, there are
    no black flies. Flowers in
    bloom. No one can see
    the poet who will black
    ball you when you’re
    not interested in his bed.
    Pine smell and night birds
    camouflage the novelist
    who packs in the night,
    moans, “if I don’t get out
    of here I’ll become an
    alcoholic or gay.” In the
    photographs, the giddy
    cradle their paper babies.
    It’s like a Christmas card
    letter of the Happy Family
    before what’s really
    going on leaks out


    Do i really have to write about what seems most scary?

    Isn’t it enough I’ve fought against
    it with ballet classes every day,
    often more than one? Do I have
    to tell you about the letter
    from a woman who says, “Now
    in the gym the men stop looking”?
    Do I have to joke, “Pull the plug if
    I can’t do ballet,” laugh when a
    friend says, “I didn’t sleep with him
    because I’d have to get undressed”?
    Do I have to remember my mother
    saying she’d rather be dead
    than lose her teeth?
    I think of the friend who
    says she doesn’t worry about what
    poem she’ll read but about what she
    will wear. Another says she wants
    plastic surgery but doesn’t think
    it’s right for someone in the arts:
    shouldn’t she care about loftier things?.
    I think of another woman who will
    be photographed only in certain
    positions. Do I have to tell you what
    I’m thinking about isn’t death


    Fat girls

    Once you’ve been one, you never aren’t. “Chubette,”
    is a bullet that shatters a day of shopping. It is true,
    isn’t it, that once you’ve seen yourself fat in 3 way
    mirrors, or photographs, cringed when someone yells
    “Fatso,” you see that image at 120 pounds, at 90. I
    stood on the edge of the scale so gingerly, I bruised
    my instep. In ballet, if someone is losing weight, they
    wear a yellow leotard or pale lavender but switch back
    to black when they’ve gained a few pounds. “Zaftig”
    only sounds nice but isn’t. I will never believe anyone
    truly loves dragging enough fat to make a separate
    person around with them. Say “fat is beautiful,” call
    them plus sizes. Well though I know it’s not PC, I
    think it’s a lie. Still, I think I shouldn’t be writing this
    poem, that it could annoy or hurt somebody, someone
    who has tried to leave what they don’t need to drag
    around, what damages their heart. When you’re
    surrounded by ballet babies, spider legs and arms,
    one anorexic, or bulimic, what isn’t there seems to matter
    more than what is. I think of my sister, once the skinny
    beauty, who needed eggnogs to give her strength, until,
    wounded maybe, she built a wall of flesh around her
    you can’t get through. Don’t you think you’ve been
    touched by all this? I think of the year I chewed gum to
    not eat, got lots of cavities. Listen, I know this poem is
    in trouble, in as much trouble as I will be if I finish it,
    publish or worse, read it. Once when I read a poem called
    “Fat” at a woman’s center, some walked out and the ones
    who didn’t were angry. But like the Shakers who wanted
    everything stripped to the barest essentials, like an aunt
    emptying her house of what she didn’t need, I know there’s
    a lot I could get rid of. Here I’m talking about pounds but
    if you took a look at my closets you’d see they are stuffed
    with what I should shed: 5 inch heeled boots, Betsey Johnson
    skirts, so much black velvet you could imagine yourself
    under an enormous midnight sky, lost in the dark with
    no light or exit


    Sultry, humid, running to the metro

    forgetting pills and running
    back to the house, finally
    on the train, a flash to that other
    May, my hair just washed.
    Chloe on my wrists and behind
    my knees, your favorite blue lace
    panties. Today time seems
    botched. It couldn’t have been
    so many years since I slept against
    your back, as many years ago
    as your son was old, long enough
    for me to have a daughter with
    eyes as blue, to haunt me. The
    green, maybe, a wall of it like
    trees I drove through, that moist
    avalanche of black emerald.
    Or was it the tea rose leaking
    on my skin made me think
    of long hot hazy hours in your
    kitchen, in different rooms,
    moving toward your mouth. The
    elastic is still good in those
    lace panties, my hair is growing
    longer, as if it were a flag
    I could wave to let you know I’m
    in town, as if you were living and
    I was coming to you, still high
    from a dance class where
    when I stretched and warmed
    up, it was as if for you


    If I had a daughter

    I’d be jealous of her
    perfect skin, how she
    would parade in spike
    heels I have but no
    longer wear. I’d long
    for her slim body:
    tho mine is, it’s
    not the same. At her
    age, I was chunky,
    in glasses, too shy. If
    I had a girl of my own
    I’d be jealous of her
    pouty dark lipsticked
    lips, a little Lolita
    tho she wouldn’t know
    as she bloomed. I
    know I’d feel my own
    life shrink, my bright hair
    dry out. Once I heard
    you lose a tooth for each
    baby. She’d be oblivious,
    lost in the mirror never
    imagining boys won’t
    want to dance with her.
    Her smile would blind,
    her eyes glow, enormous.
    As she moves away
    out the door, in them
    I see my own reflection
    grow smaller


    Forced buds

    They’re blighted, but
    beautiful still, like
    what’s forbidden,
    scandal. I like them
    best then. I know
    that’s the bad daughter
    in me, not choosing
    the ones that last.
    I tore the branches,
    sneaked them into
    a blue jar the way I
    might have had you in
    the brown velvet couch
    of a café I forget the
    name of, let's call
    it Casablanca. We’d
    needed something light,
    three hours of your
    unhealing blues part
    way to making love. I
    like the buds best
    just on the verge of
    opening, pink, pale rouge
    as a nipple before every
    thing opens and falls
  • Lyn Lifshin has published more than 130 books and chapbooks and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her work has appeared in most literary and poetry magazines. She has been included in virtually every major anthology. She has given more than 700 readings across U.S.A and has been Poet in Residence at Rochester, Antioch and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film, just re-released, Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass.

    Lyn Lifshin's prizewinning book Black Sparrow book that won a(Paterson Poetry Award) Before It's Light, following their publication of Cold Comfort. Another Woman Who Looks Like Me was published by Black Sparrow-David Godine in 2006. The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian was published by Texas Review Press who later published Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness They will have Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle on Amazon for May 14 publication.

    Other books include A new   Film about a Woman in Love with the Dead, Marilyn Monroe-- just re-released as an E Book by Rubber Boots Press. Among her books are Nutley Pond, Desire, Barbie Poems The Daughter I Don't Have, Mirrors, Barbie, When a Cat Dies, Auddley End, Black Apples, Upstate Madonna, Persephone, 92 Rapple, Lost Horses, The Doctors, The Jesus Poems, Katrina, Light at the End, Ballet Madonnas.

    More recently, Lifshin published All The Poets Who Touched me, Living and Dead: All True, Especially the Lies and For The Roses, poems for Joni Mitchell and Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems Hotel Hitchcock and just out Fall of 2013: Tangled as The Alphabet: The Istanbul Poems and A Girl Goes Into The Woods. Malala was just published.
  1. Loving you.
    thanks so much
  2. Vasile Baghiu
    This refined and subtle (somehow melancholic) connection to the real life in your poetry is touching, Lyn.
  3. TrishSaunders
    I like this image of forced buds....pale rouge as a nipple before every thing opens and falls apart. Wow.
    cherylleverette likes this.
  4. Cheryl.Leverette
    O my gosh.  I love this woman.