lyn lifshin


Before It's Light:
chapter: Blaze of Color in a Slash of White



Tibet Woman(1)

You think I seem calm? I’ve learned to listen.
We heard stories of those who wouldn’t do what
they said, starving, walking thru Tibet with
no shoes. They told us we should be grateful

for food and clothes, for not being beaten.
They gave us “bitterness meals,” strange herbs,
told us there’d be jails with scorpions, knives
to cut tendons. They told us we had been slaves,

how the others lived off our sweat. I listened,
said nothing. I think of the bamboo, of walking
on the tender green. I think of plum blossoms
in a picture book, of the sweet smell of rain-soaked

leaves, less sweet than my daughter’s hair. I feel her
breath against my skin, her small tongue like the
inside of a flower. But I hold mine. I don’t stick it
out in our greeting of friendliness I once used to.

I taste the bitter, the sour and sweet, the salt, have
heard of women who would not listen, whose tongues
were sliced and tossed in the snow. Calmness is my
mask. Sometimes I rub my tongue along my daughter’s

skin but usually even when it burns, I hold it


Tibet Woman (2)

this early,
before any light
I hold on to the
dark like a cup

of cooling tea.
It’s the time I
can coil closest
to the baby deep

in the tent. We
listen to the
wind blow down
from Mt. Kailas,

the animals in
cradles of snow.
Licorice sky and
me under the yak

wool eating an
apple slowly, the
only color in a
blaze of white


Tibet Woman (3)

You hear we’re barbarians, superstitious. Is that all
bad? If you were here, I would take an apple that
goes back, true, as far as before the animals
were named. No one needed yak’s wool for
warmth or to cover their body. A forest

apple that only ripens in the mountains in the
cold. I often cross my fingers for luck, for the
ice coming early enough not to paralyze the
blossoms. And it’s true, I say a prayer for
no birds to gnaw the pale globes, for the sun

to turn skin the color of the inside of my mouth.
I’ll leave them in the light so they can soak
up the mountain freshness and then slice
them on the first day the shadows seem cold,
wrap them in dark leaves, butter each

with a sweet honey you find outside this valley
and bake on yak dung until they’re crisp,
ooze with sweetness, then drizzle with cream
so the lips of the fruits swim in a gold dark as
caramel, irresistible as Eve’s



from the book Before It's Light
  beforeitslight.jpg - 6040 Bytes
Before It's Light - Lyn Lifshin
$16.00 (1-57423-114-6/paper)
$27.50 (1-57423-115-4/cloth trade)
$35.00 (1-57423-116-2/signed cloth)
Bird.gif - 156 BytesBlack Sparrow Press

Lyn Lifshin

     Lyn Lifshin has written more than 100 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the U.S.A., and her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women. She has given more than 700 readings across the U.S.A. and has appeared at Dartmouth and Skidmore colleges, Cornell University, the Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library. Lyn Lifshin has also taught poetry and prose writing for many years at universities, colleges and high schools, and has been Poet in Residence at the University of Rochester, Antioch, and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For her absolute dedication to the small presses which first published her, and for managing to survive on her own apart from any major publishing house or academic institution, Lifshin has earned the distinction "Queen of the Small Presses." She has been praised by Robert Frost, Ken Kesey and Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders has seen her as " a modern Emily Dickinson."

A New Film About a Woman in Love with the Dead
by Lyn Lifshin, 2002, 109 pages, $20.00, ISBN 1-882983-83-1 (March Street Press, 3413 Wilshire Drive, Greensboro, NC 27408)

     Almost every woman I know has had at least one heart-wrenching experience with a "bad news" boyfriend, and Lyn Lifshin is no exception. In this new collection of 103 poems she chronicles her own relationship with such a man, one who happened to be a popular radio personality, yet possessed a chilly heart. She tells her tale in a sequence of poems that reads like a novel, spanning the length of the relationship from beginning to end, including a period of time years later when she learns he has died of cancer....

Laura Stamps

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Cold ComfortBefore It's Light

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