ISSUE FOUR
August 1998

Lyn Lifshin

Lyn Lifshin Lyn Lifshin has written more than 100 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the USA. She has taught poetry and prose writing for many years, winning numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award. Her new book is Cold Comfort by Black Sparrow Press.
My Afternoons with Dylan Thomas Read Along with the Author


It was just a blur, like you might think
stumbling from the White Horse Tavern,
the maples already tinged with blood.
He wasn't booming and loud, he wasn't
his voice, wasn't that voice booming
on records, all Swansea and raging.
There was no wild dying of the light.
We stopped for egg creams. He loved
them better than the cream of a woman's
thighs many say he collapsed in, took
the long legged bait and ship wrecked,
but it was the cove of skin, the warmth,
everything unlike the dark coal mines or
the grey mist of Rhemny. I won't for
get the softness of his curls. He wasn't
my type, too fair and he didn't work out,
his body soft as his lips. He was more
like a pet, a kitten I could let cuddle
against me. Was I a virgin? What does that
matter. Or whether he was a good lover. When
he held my cat who always hisses at new
people, she let him press her into his skin
as if like when he held me, her fur could keep
fear from spilling and staining the rest
of Wednesday.

 

 

Bosnia   Read Along with the Author


The man breathing
beyond the sour
bodies, clumps
of matted hair
and washed bones
needs a little
beauty, focusses
on Chagall, the
soft edges of the
dead, the odd
angles of faceless
figures, something
Chagall, in a sad
moment, might
have dreamed. Some
have jagged holes
in their skulls.
Others have wrist
bones still bound
by plastic wire.
The man uncovers
bones from soft clay,
says, "we have a
gentleman here,
in a sitting position,
soft on top of
other people. Here,
gentleman 2 is lying
on his back, his head
in a downward position.
His hands are beside
him, like this and
gentleman 3 is also
lying on his back, his
hands behind him. "I
don't jump to any
conclusions." Bones,
cloth, hair let nameless
victims speak past Vukovar.
"You deal with the dead
because you're concerned
with the living," he says.
"I try not to be a spoiler
of dreams, maybe just a
spoiler of nightmares."
Blood stains are gone,
grass grows over the graves.
Investigators poke by poke
search for the peculiar
odor of human decay in fields
of wild purple flowers, move
forward slowly, first with
shovels, then garden trowels
and then, when the bones and
sinews are clear, paint brushes
to dust the evidence. The
fragile remains, soemtimes in
jeans bleached grey white
after months in the ground, are
numbered, photographed carefully,
separated and wrapped up, body
by body in plastic bags. You
have to be scientific an
anthropologist says but you use
one part heart and the whole part
brain. A woman says, "I don't
think I'm gaining great scientific
knowledge here were Serb motorists
sometimes honk angrily or flip
insulting hand gestures, but its
trying to make sense of a conflict
that flourished from indifference.
People did things like this because
they thought they could get away
with it.

 

 

Lyn Lifshin: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FourThe Cortland Review