Lyn Lifshin
56 North Pleasant Street

past the beads hung over the door,
rose light floods the back room
where the safe is, my grandmother
with a sick baby crying, tapping
the pane under apple leaves
My mother is 8, her new doll’s
head lies smashed on the floor.
She is hating her brother. Spirea
covers the sidewalk. She is
furious at her brother and runs
into the hot stove. Her
grandmother gets  a cold knife.
My mother screams, is sure the
knife is a weapon. She is wild
to claw her brother. My great
grandmother will die without
replacing the broken head tho
she promises this until her last
month in the blue bed where I
will try to sleep when my mother
goes to have my sister and won’t
tho my grandmother sings
White Cliffs of Dover  and the
apples are like magic green eggs
in July light behind the house

Estelle, Star Stones

That summer on the sea porch, Winthrop, was
it July? My sister crying. Estelle,
even your name a bracelet, star stones
stars I put on and let the dark waves crash
on the bed. We were drifting into your 19 year
old life, imagining your boyfriends on the
other edge of your skin. Nipples on the beach, your
tan. You brought blue bowls of raspberries,
cream fingers. Estelle, Estelle, you wanted
to be what your name was and sang weekends on
the radio, sang brushing my hair in the
bathroom light. The white tiles cool.
My sun burnt skin. You said
you’d never stop singing, wouldn’t marry and
hummed something that both our fathers heard
on that boat from Lithuania, heard in a
strange tongue. We couldn’t understand
you said but would later and how
you’d dance as those children
had. Black pines.
Russia glowing in the sea. Night. We were
wrapped in cats and velvet. Moon on
the stones. you told us of dreams hidden
in the stone, got out that—I remember
the gold around the latch—
jewel box, it was what went with wishes
in old books and moonstones. Dream
fur. Choose one for later.
The smoothest stones.  Your long thick hair.
Goodnight. Your name a charm still
though you married in some split level,
your throat stuffed with china
and none of the things you
promised would happen happened