Lyn Lifshin (1942-2019) was a prolific American poet who wrote of quiet moments, thoughts, and dreams. She was born in New England and kept the tradition of austerity threaded with longing – with passion often unspoken – of that region. Her poetry, however, differed from Frost and Dickinson in its modern apprehension and cheerful sensuality.
Black Sparrow Press, one of her publishers, wrote: Lyn was the author of more than 125 books and edited four anthologies of women writers. Throughout her life, she remained dedicated to the small presses which first published her.
The first of these poems I read in Waterways, a literary magazine that’s been published for more than 35 years now. The poem was published in other “lit mags” as well.
She Said She Couldn’t See to Walk Easily
for Malala Yousafzai
In her long gray drab berka. Some times it was hot. It was as if she wanted to bring color, not the source of the storm. Wanted to walk into life like it was her house. She wanted to wear pink because it was her favorite color. There are songs she wants to sing. She wants to feel as if each day could unravel new mysteries. She wants the school to receive her in quiet calmness the way the lake opens to receive a flock of swans
Milky summer nights,
the men stay waiting, First National Corner
where the traffic light used to be, wait
as they have all June evenings of their lives.
Lilac moss and lily of the valley
sprout in the cooling air as
Miss Damon, never late for thirty years,
hurries to unlock the library, still
hoping for a sudden man to spring tall from the
locked dark of mysterious card catalogues to
come brightening her long dusty shelves.
And halfway to dark
boys with vacation bicycles
whistle flat stones over the bridge,
longing for secret places where
rocks are blossoming girls with damp thighs.
Then nine o’clock falls thick on lonely books
and all the unclaimed fingers and
as men move home through bluemetal light,
the Congregational Church bells
ringing as always four minutes late,
the first hayload of summer rumbles through
town and all the people shut their eyes
dreaming a wish