Lyn Lifshin




I THINK OF MY GRANDFATHER

 

on a cramped ship

headed toward Ellis Island.

Fog, fog horns for a

lullaby. The black

pines, a frozen pear.

Straw roofs on fire.

If there were postcards

from the sea there might

have been a Dear

Hannah or Mama, hand

colored with salt.

I will come and get you.

If the branches are

green, pick the apples.

When I write next, I will

have a pack on my

back, string and tin.

I dream about the snow

in the mountains. I never

liked it but I dream of

you tying a scarf

around my hair, your

words that white dust

 

 

IF MY GRANDMOTHER COULD HAVE WRITTEN

A POSTCARD TO THE SISTER LEFT BEHIND

 

It would be written

on sand, or on a

hand colored photo

graph of a country

with nobody waiting

with guns, no thatched

roofs on fire, no

hiding in trees after

a knock on the

door: Sister, it is

nothing like we had

or what we imagined.

There are no Jews

in the small rural

towns hardly. They

don't spit or say

we are thieves but

it is as icy in Vermont

as days in Russia.

Lake Champlain is

not like our sea. We

are safe, we are

lonely

 

 

IF MY GRANDMOTHER WOULD HAVE WRITTEN

A POST CARD TO ODESSA

 

she would write her

name in salt, salt

and mist, an SOS

from the ship sea

wind slaps with night

water. Somehow I'm

dreaming of Russian

pines. I don't dream

of the houses on fire,

babies pressed into

a shivering woman's

chest to keep them

still. Someone had

something to eat the

color of sun going

down behind the

hill late summer,

rose, with its own

sweet skin. They

are everywhere in

America. If the lilies

bloom in our

town of darkness,

just one petal in an

envelope would be

enough


 

FROM THE FIRST WEEKS IN NEW YORK,

IF MY GRANDFATHER COULD HAVE WRITTEN A POSTCARD

 

if he had the words, the

language. If he could

spell. If he wasn't

selling pencils but knew

how to use them, make

the shapes for words

he doesn't know. If he

was not weighed down

with a pack that made

red marks on his shoulder,

rubbed the skin that

grew pale under layers

of wet wool, he might have

taken the brown wrapping

paper and tried to write

three lines in Russian

to a mother or aunt he

might never see again.

But instead, too tired to

wash hair smelling of

burning leaves he walked

thru, maybe he curled

in  a blue quilt, all he had

of the cottage he left

that night running past

straw roofs on fire,

dreamt of those tall black

pines, but not how, not

yet 17, he will live in

a house he will own,

more grand than any he

saw in his old country




Lyn Lifshin has published more than 120 books of poetry, including, most recently, Katrina (Poetic Matrix Press), Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness (Texas Review Press), Desire (World Parade Books), Persephone (Red Hen Press), Another Woman Who Looks like Me (Black Sparrow Press at David Godine), The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian (Texas Review Press), and Before It's Light (Black Sparrow Press).










                                    

 

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