Pero review of Ballroom

There is no way to resist Lyn Lifshin. Her poems
keep coming, like restless dreams that put you
slightly out of kilter, but keep you entranced,
wooed, won. Her longing for the unreachable, the
endless itching for someone who cannot be
attained, wind through this volume of “almost”
love poems; the “Ballroom” is real, but the
lovers are not. The poems addict you just the
same.  “Ballroom Gigolos and the Jeweled and
Powdered Ladies” could be any time, any place
“like a last gasp, they tango with/all the fire left.”
“Ballroom” is theme and hundreds of variations,
yet we never feel Lifshin repeats herself because
the variations are as subtle and as shaded as an
impressionistic painting. The trademark Lifshin
“Mad Girl” is here in all her wild splendor, but
more of Lifshin is in the Mad Girl than ever
before.  “The Mad girl/drenches her fingers/with
rose/tea rose, tuber/rose, Bulgarian/and white
heirloom rose.”  “She is wild to have
him/remember…”  And some exquisite poems are not
about “ballroom” at all.  These are the poems
that transcend all the sweat and moan, take one
to another place. “Letting you fade/from the
poems/gone, the way clouds/skim over the
moon’s/face.With you, it was/ always illusion.
It’s the/way in this light, milk/weed pods
explode/in the dark honey of/night. Small
flowers,/ghost flowers,/dissolving like
words/that shouldn’t have/mattered, shadowy
as/deer shifting thru/apples, then the gray/fox,
stunning,/haunting as/gone eyes.”

The final coup of “Ballroom” is a long poem, “The
Hotel Lifshin Is Closing Its Doors.”
This is a rant straight from the heart of a
Lewis-Carroll-Lifshin I hadn’t quite known
before, an outrageous-nightmare-surrealistic
protest epic that blasts what the world seems to
be doing to all prolific poets who others think
“out-write” them. This is a reply to those who
take these poets’ best work and trash them. The
“hotel” is slashed, torn and wrecked but always
within the realm of the ridiculous and the
absurd, the poet mocking the guests in a tart
retort and we laugh, even though it hurts.

“Years from now,
when the hotel is plowed
and only pieces of stained
drift up when a child digs in clay. Or maybe
a ruined couch frame.
Or the glass or even
buttons from the coat
of the man who became
more and more confused,
wandered thru others’
bedrooms, dazed in
the lobby will float
past the cash register
and the eerie voice of
the buck-toothed
screeching guest will
echo up from earth,
cut night like an
ambulance siren “

I would suggest that anyone who has loved Lyn
Lifshin’s poems over the years will not be
disappointed in “Ballroom” and those few who
still have not found her, would find this book hard to put down.

Alice Pero