Lyn Lifshin

2 Poetic Selections

by Lyn Lifshin


Getting Over The Reading That Didn’t Quite Pan Out

like getting over the second date when the
first was magical, a glow you walk– no float
over cobblestones and bricks in, a violet
haze mysterious and haunting as the small
flower Napoleon crushed to his skin from
Josephine’s grave as if still holding her.
You can’t wait for the next time, pick out
clothes days before, imagine the audience
like a lover’s wrists folding around you, a
plum, a prize, a place to read few get to,
fewer get asked back. This time you hope
there won’t be bad news later. This time you
are high just taking the metro there and then
waiting alone in the green room, like a bride
waiting to make an entrance. But instead,
the room is half full, it’s freezing. A fan or
heater clacks drowning out what you had to
say and you try not to show how disappointed
you are like that tv chosen bride pretending
it’s ok when the man she is revolted by plants
a huge smacker. Only those who already have
the book I was dying to sell fill the first row
and as soon as I open my mouth I know there
won’t be a next time. I’m not giving them
what they need: a packed room like last time
with book buyers stretching down the aisle.
Ok, I didn’t expect them to be out in the parking
lot like at a Borders when Jimmy Carter read.
I try to smile and do my chirpy best, keep it
going but I need someone out there to be so
entranced with every word that I sparkle as I did
and maybe no one can be sure except myself
that there won’t be another date.


Blue Old Cady In The Metro Lot

In a car like this one
slicing Cape Cod
rose plum nights.
Murray and my mother
squabbling in the
front seat past cranberry
bogs, Murray singing
something Al Jolson
might have. “Quieter,”
my mother begs,
offering me a winter
green life saver I
realize, writing this,
I haven’t tasted
for almost ten years.
In a car like this
I curled into myself
in leather pants on
the leather seats on
the way to poetry
readings he’d drive
from Plymouth to
Vermont, pick my
mother up and drive
to New York then
maybe New Jersey.
Wind of cigars
and roses. Waves
of their fighting
not over anything
big: “those tomatoes
weren’t so hot.”
“What do you mean
they were like we used
to pick in the garden,
Murray, you never
remember right.” In
a car like this, before
they both had to sit
down in malls,
Murray was cowboy,
soldier, sailor and
magnolias blossomed as
he told of rescuing
a ship the enemy set on
fire. Each time he told
it the flames spurted
higher. In a car like
this, while my mother
was in Filene’s or Macy’s,
Murray told me my
mother was quite the looker.
“Honey,” he half swooned,
“she was smart, she was
a lady and could she
dance. Always laughing,
not like now.” In a
car like this, upholstery
with its new car smell
turned the night to
arms, was lips, every town
a new language in the
silver of the headlights
I drifted thru, fast forwarding
to when I would outgrow
who I was then.


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