Two Poems by Lyn Lifshin

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

Middlebury Poem

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

3 thoughts on “Two Poems by Lyn Lifshin

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