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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 22.1 (2001) 103-104

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Lyn Lifshin

They Said She had a Candle in One Hand

helium balloons in the
other, lavenders and
chartreuse, lemons,
mint colors, cherries.
The smallest girls
in white pleats. No
blacks, no navies for
this memorial, she
said it was like going
thru the house months
later, choices of what
to keep, what to let go.
Some tears she said,
yes, but the colors in
the sky, those circles
floating free as birds
you buy for a quarter
in India, just to free [End Page 103]

Strange Pocket Books Scattered thru the House

my mother's special one,
always full of bank books,
now in the closet near my
bed. She kept the bags
locked in a suitcase, kept
her wits, even two weeks
from dying so none of this
was left in the room my
sister kicked us both out of.
Kleenex still in a ball in the
bag, lipstick in one of many
compartments. The first time
I saw it on her bed with her
not in the house it was like
an arrow, a warning. Now
it's in a separate closet, not
where I sleep, as if I would
dream her into the room,
lugging the glasses she
always thought she lost,
asking if I want ice cream
or to have her rub my back
and then wake up shaking
at what isn't. So I keep the
black bag from my ex-mother-
in-law with my mother's
emeralds, a gold chain to
suck spring colors into the
room like the forsythia I
cut at the end of January,
starved for what could
still bloom in greyness

Lyn Lifshin, whose most recent book is Before It's Light, has published more than one-hundred books of poetry, won awards for nonfiction, and edited four anthologies of women's writing, including Tangled Vines, Ariadne's Thread, and Lips Unsealed. Her poems have appeared in dozens of literary and poetry magazines, and she is the subject of an award winning documentary film, Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For interviews, samples of work, and more, visit her website at

Copyright © 2001 by Lyn Lifshin



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