This December by Lyn Lifshin


This December
by Lyn Lifshin

A swan moved into the house, camouflaged
among geese. She must have been, or the
mist from the pond blurred her. I say her
because her antics never seemed male. Never
threatening, but coy. And never loitering
on my side of the bed. I suppose she was
cold or starved. This year, the pond froze
early. When I think back, I remember a white
feather on the deck but that wasn’t so strange.
The tangerines were gnawed before they were
ripe. It could have been crows or gulls I
told myself after the space between my lover
and I in bed got wider. He thought this
whiteness was lovely as he had psychotic
ballet dancer lovers who became swans. The
quilt’s full of feathers he’d insist when a
pale wreathe of her circled the sheets. I thought
it was more like something wild staking territory.
It wasn’t that we really saw her though it is
clear the cat did. She was more of a presence
and haunting as a dead love whose handwriting
lures and chills. I felt her watch him. She
knew his moods, each move and had more time to
plot seduction than I did. Being unattainable
didn’t hurt. He felt her breath and his blood
couldn’t sleep. Drugs hardly helped but for
once, he didn’t mind not sleeping. When he turned
up music too loud for me, she moved into his arms
downstairs. I kept typing. I could feel her legs
sprawled open like a dancer with a miracle 180 degree
arabesque, hardly human, a wild open grin. Crumbs
and bread disappeared. There were more feathers,
it was like a mist and the moon was hazy through her
as if a storm was coming. Once when I opened an old
quilt from Odessa the room filled with its snow.
Some days seemed as opaque. The day the pond froze
for good the house felt somehow different. The cat
stopped being spooked. A downstairs window looked
splintered but then I saw it was only frost etched
in what looked like a hieroglyph, something in a
language I don’t know. I vacuumed up the last
feathers. The stain of wings still hangs in the
air, gives the room a bluish light. Still, her
leaving wasn’t like a break up where someone leaves
the house, packs a painting, favorite gloves but
more the way something comes apart, as it did, so
slowly it’s hard to tell when what isn’t wasn’t
still whole

Lyn Lifshin‘s Another Woman Who Looks Like Me was published by Black Sparrow at David Godine October, 2006. Also out in 2006 is her prize winning book about the famous, short lived beautiful race horse, Ruffian: The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian from Texas Review Press. Lifshin’s other recent books include Before it’s Light published winter 1999-2000 by Black Sparrow press, following their publication of Cold Comfort in 1997, and in ’92 Rapple from Coatism. Persephone was published by Red Hen and Texas Review published Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness. Most recent books: Ballroom, All the Poets (Mostly) Who Have Touched me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially the Lies. And just out, Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems. In  Fall 2012, NYQ books will publish A Girl Goes into The Woods. Also  just out: For the Roses, poems after Joni Mitchell. For other books, bio, photographs see her web site: