UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
LYN LIFSHIN

I TRIED TO AVOID GARRISON, SWITCHED TO ANOTHER STATION

except on those long
car trips between Virginia
and new York when you
never know what you’ll find.
This morning on a break
from ballet, even on a
station where he isn’t,
there he is but for once, I
feel sorry for him. He sounds
old. The early clip has a
liveliness in his voice that
is gone. “You atrophy,” he says,
“you’re a bother, you lose
social skills, don’t know how
to get along with people”
I feel better already seeing his
rudeness up close and when
he goes on to talk about
one blunder in his woeful
monologue, where he’s made a
mess as he went along, a story
about a man bringing a cow
into the house, up the stairs and
when he can’t get it down,
he slaughters it. I want to plunge
thru the radio and give him my
much better poem on this subject
even as I’m thinking maybe
he read it. Anyway, mine was
true, I heard it, I believe it. It
started better too, on the day her
husband died, ( you might wonder
how I got to hear this story?)
Well I went around with a poet
who did Food Stamp out reach and
he met some of the most unusual
people, a woman with dead triplets
in her freezer that she hoped
the Lord would bring back to life
but that’s another story. The woman
with a cow was rather touching.
On the day her husband died, she
told us she brought a just born
heifer into her bed, it was small and
she needed something to cuddle and
the calf was so sweet and small.
She kept him so she would not have
to go up to bed alone. It always slept
near her. And then years later, of
course he was too big to get out of
the room. What had once been
her husband’s room now was the
heifer’s, more loyal and really
less demanding than her gone old man


WHEN I STOPPED USING CAPS IN THE 70’S OR 80’S

it was Cummings everyone said but
it’s not true. Not being a great
speller or typist, I much preferred
how he twisted syntax. Once we
were having coffee at The Cafe
Pamplona in Harvard Square and
even the way he ordered was a
poem I forget the exact words but
it was something like we wanted
just foam and extra, please the
vanilla for the cappuccino. The
waitress looked puzzled at first but
it was clear she understood and
giggled. She brought little fresh
cream rolled chocolates and never
even charged. (Later I heard he
brought her tulips and The
Pamplona was never the same.
I could listen for hours, not so
much to his poems but to his
stories of being an ambulance
driver in World War 2, how he
ended up in a French detention
camp. It must have been horrendous
but to hear him talk, you’d think
he had a ball. it was comforting to
know he had trouble finding a
publisher. When I teach, I always
have students touch and taste,
listen and smell and I think I got
some of that from e.e. He had such a
unique way of describing the chaotic
immediacy of sensuous things, all
his games with words—“anyone
lived in a pretty how town”
and “because I love you) last night”
and “2 little who’s” and “I like
my body when it is with yours,”
whimsical as he was


READING THE ARTICLE ABOUT JOYCE CAROL OATES
VENTURING INTO PARALLEL UNIVERSES


Washington Post, December 21 2004

When I see her face,
porcelain skin, her
eyes are my mother’s
eye brows, the same
slant. I remember Oates
on the Syracuse campus,
her voice a voice you
can’t forget. When I
read she recently learned
her paternal grandmother
was Jewish, left Germany
in the 1890’s I dream
somehow she ended up
in Odessa, or Kovna, a
shetl in Lithuania or
someplace in New York,
Witherbee somehow
with a new name. I
imagine this grandmother,
a relative of hers mingling
with my great uncle,
not far from Lackawanna,
a poet whose notebook
I just found again looking
for something else. In
another dream frame she
meets my grandmother with
her own poems in back of
a green notebook, immigrants
with their loss and grief,
with their words for
company, a grandmother
who will breathe as mine does
in poems I’ve had to mostly
make up about her in Oates
novel about her I’ll have
to waiting impatiently
to come


Just out from Lyn Lifshin: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: MYYEAR WITH RUFFIAN,
and ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME. She has over 120 books & edited
4 anthologies.

Her last two Black Sparrow books, COLD COMFORT and BEFORE IT’S LIGHT
won Paterson Review Awards and Black Sparrow at David Godine will publish
ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME. New also: IN MIRRORS, AN
UNFINISHED STORY, THE DAUGHTER I DON’T HAVE, SHE WAS FOUND
TREADING WATER

Her website: www.lynlifshin.com







© 2007 Underground Voices