by Lyn Lifshin

from World Parade Books, www.worldparadebooks.com

Press and Press contact
Paul Kreen Tayyar
5267 Warner Avenue # 191
Huntington Beach, California 92649

softcover, $13.95

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Sample Poems


Ice Maiden's 29th S.O.S.

Some of you think of
me as a wild herb
or flower at the mercy
of light and sun,
rotted in darkness,
picked up by accident
with no will of my own.
Wind blown,
ravaged by birds,
burned or cut down,
struck by lightning.
True, I've been exposed,
but how few women
have been so treasured,
not in spite of their being
around so long,
but because of it.
My life has been a circle.
All I need is earth,
a quilt of sky.

The Ice Maiden's 77th S.O.S.

It's not the sun that I missed,
or wanted to bathe me when
I left what I thought would
be my last room in the earth.
That was heat-pleated,
exposed, turned what
the dark held so well into leather.
No, it was the moon that
I wanted to wash over me,
silver and pale,
camouflaging my scars and wrinkles,
cool and like an opal,
mysterious enough to make of
what shimmers all that I needed.


The Ice Maiden's 87th S.O.S.

It was like being buried
though I don't remember that either.
There were the years in darkness,
and then,
it was like falling through space,
hardly thinking of the place
that I was torn from.

Later, voices were as foreign
as the words of roots
moving under the earth.

Like the first time,
I was dazed,
still frozen.
I hardly felt the stones
I slammed against,
or the sun turning my face mahogany.

By the time I was carried from
the valley, my hair smelled of
cold clover,
something was thawing,
something was at risk.

The Ice Maiden's 97th S.O.S.

When I was born,
my mother said there
was a birthmark in the
shape of a tear,
an omen,
a warning.
But what could a
woman 500 years ago
in Peru do?
Soon this long, black hair
that many cherish,
covered it.
Still, when she held me,
she said that she held sadness,
as if she knew that
she would never have
a truce with herself,
as if the mark
was a tattoo of loss.
I hardly remember the smell,
though I rode many years
close to her skin.
When they took me to be
sacrificed to the mountain,
she didn't follow all the way,
or even come,
but she ran,
pure terror and rage:
How else could she let go
of all that mattered?

The Ice Maiden's 232nd S.O.S.

You wouldn't think that,
buried so long,
I could even respond again.
That I could hear sleet,
the branches over me
creaking and splintering.
Sometimes, I imagine
sun and light leaking through stone
that was a dream.
Then it was over.
I can't tell you how
I left what was my world for so long,
and that the first glimpse of sky
seemed like water,
my body like a pleated skirt
pressed under granite,
dark as violets,
rigid as bark,
terrified as I fell through ice crystals,
still as ice crystals,
seeing flesh and fingers
before I could feel them.

The Ice Maiden's 267th S.O.S.

I'm a teenager,
but I've been one
for 500 years,
and the further I get
from the last day,
the more I see my mother
more clearly.
How really,
there was nothing that she could do
as a woman to save me.
The weak always lie,
too terrified to say what's true.
She gave her dearest gift,
was left with nothing.
Maybe she thought it was a test,
asked to sacrifice
a daughter like Abraham and Isaac.
I thought that I might find her
under the earth,
another myth.
Don't call me Persephone.
There was no Demeter,
no Zeus.

No nothing.

Whatever I hoped,
I never found in that garden.
I was as foolish as someone
who believes that something
will grow from planting a
dead child in the ground.



“The combination of eros, ebullience and triste, or sadness…she reminds me of the ancient Greek poet Anacreon.”— Ed Sanders

“Here she is! Might as well stop fighting it. Lifshin is not going to go away. For men, she’s sexy. For women, she’s an archetype of gutsy independence. As a poet, she’s nobody but herself—frighteningly prolific and utterly intense. One of a kind.” — San Francisco Review of Books

"I read Desire tonight-- I just loved it the book is just filled with the kind of poems of hers I like best--personal , narrative, with intensity and lots of psychological levels and her signature imagery--The poems about lovers, and the ones about her mother and those about Frost and her father , I found completely engrossing--And the ones about the ice maiden were so original and in a sense really contemporary and worked." — Laura Boss

Last updated: March 27, 2009