Three Poems by Lyn Lifshin


summer van ride up
through Canada, soak up
the cool green and then
I got to go, keep
on. I can’t just stay
in this room here. I’ll
never work for any
body. After Nam
I tried the dream,
the white picket
handcuffs, married
her out of pity,
ass-kissed the
school. No more –you
think I’ve been offensive? You
ain’t seen – watch out for my dog,
he’s mean and it’s not show.
I want to get them
for what they
turned me into. I got Librium,
vodka, a machete in the
top drawer. Machine gun
I polish, check each
night. Got medals in
a velvet zip bag
thrown into the corner.
In the photographs
near the mattress on
the floor, I’m 22,
trim, got a Vietnamese
girl with long hair
dripping spread eagle
on each knee. And these
were the dogs. They
couldn’t remove
the shrapnel, too close
to the spine. You see the
way my body’s shaking?
I’ll take some books
on Nam, on the Holocaust.
Yeah, get me a van, pack up
my mean old dog and
slide down the west
coast. Gotta figure
how to get guns over the border. Did
you know I spoke Spanish
my first 4 years? Gonna
get me to El Salvador.
You know whose
side I’ll be on


isn’t much like
you’d imagine
they’re joking
paraplegics putting
on rock n roll
loud to bug some dudes
who just like Aida.
We were glad to be
coming out of the jungle,
not in body bags.
First day out with my
new leg and I think I’m
hot stuff, don’t know its
got this spring-loaded
thing and I twist on
a bar stool and my
leg spits and flings
itself out, yanks a
brief case of this
man’s arm and throws it
across the floor. He
gives me a funny look.
Then once one foot
turned around so
I looked to be
walking backward and
forward and a kid
pointed it out
and said look at that
man as his mama was
hushing. You’d be
surprised what I can
do with it. But,
Honey, there are
some things it’s more
comfortable to
take it off for


When I still wondered
if you’d call. Now
those Junes, a cake
of soap made out of
flesh, a lampshade you
can see where a
nipple or tendon
was. I’ll wait
in the dark for the
ice you left plunged
in me like a mugger’s
knife to melt into
the Hudson River. First
I thought your heart was
in your penis. Now I
can see it was in
the leg you saw
torn from you
on the other side of the
road, Vietnam.

2 Responses to “Three Poems by Lyn Lifshin”

  1. Excellent poems. Theu hit my Vietnam gut!

  2. amazing…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: