Saturday, October 26, 2013

Poet Lyn Lifshin on Georgia O'keeffe, Ansel Adams, Romare Beardan

Lyn Lifshin has written many books, including most recently For the Roses: Poems Inspired by Joni Mitchell (2012, March Street Press), and edited four anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most US poetry and literary magazines and in major anthologies of recent women's writing. She has read at Dartmouth and Skidmore colleges, Cornell University, the Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library, among others. Lifshin 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, Lifshin is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. See her website at

Black Hills with Cedar, 1941
rose lichen
   gamble oak
       globe mallow

  bent in rain

    blue lupine

         juniper mistletoe

  onyx hills rose shadows

   these rocks
             pulled from each other

     two million years ago
wrenched like a woman
   whose child is grabbed

         on a cattle car

               smashed into stone

   her eyes, streaked
        like sky over the black hills

              a Monday, all sipapu,

                   a spirit entrance

                       into the underworld

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1955
               Ansel Adams

looking for water and trees
        they left the pueblo

               moved past  the canyon

                   found a creek that
          flowed all year   they

            honey combed the cliffs
                Earth soft enough

                         so a child cold
                             dig with his fingers

                                   Aspen petals like snow
                    they wove cotton   the

                sun on their faces
                         glazed this clay

   until something with a
               huge mouth

                       moved into their houses   

Ansel Adams

waiting for rain, for
Moonrise, Hernanadez
New Mexico, 1944
wind to blow the leaves
white, the dust from
adobe, from graves

men wait in front
of their houses

twist leather and
sage brush

chili peppers dry
even at night,
crosses gleam

the men dream of cool
moist places

women soothe babies
in a wind of pinyon
and Joshua Tree

remember stories of
a great grandmother
who walked naked thru
the corn to make it
grow, the moon’s
lips on her belly,

The Card Players, 1982
Romare Beardan

striped awnings
you crank back
to let in the stars

in pitch black,
frogs and cicadas
crickets, the low

whine of bats. Roses
drip. Floorboards
the paint peels
on creak as uncles

slap down cards.
Citronella. Ice
tea clinks in

tall glasses.
Calico dog
sniffing under the
table cloth. A

train in darkness.
Straw unravels so

slowly you
can’t hear
In a Green Shade, 1984

Romare Beardan

this morning the pond
looks like green marble.
Rose and charcoal dissolving
to dove, to guava, rouge.
Only dream fish pushing
holes in the glass, so
unlike the pond, deep in
trees, almost camouflaged.
In the shade of dragon
flies, startling as coming
upon your reflection in a
mirror, just there under
trees and the wooden bar and
driftwood benches blackly
jade with pines dripping
into it, shadows close to
my hair, What I didn’t have
blinded me so I hardly saw
the small birds, blue,
pulling out of moss and
leaves as if reaching into
the dark for their color 

Romare Beardan
“The artist has to be something like a whale, swimming with his mouth open to everything until he has what he needs”
Sunset Limited, 1975

Hot and musky, the sun,
a bowl of red, blazes on
mahogany skin. 

A woman opens her body
to the child who swims in
her arms, and smells petals
in the field opening.

The day is that whale, full
of chicken and flowers.
Black pearls in the woman’s eyes,
a jelly belly woman
under her cotton, a
conjure woman

who smells the trains,
hears the trains’ music,
a July jazz birds fly
in the riff of

even the dark horse might
shake its booty.
Sunset Limited, an angel on
the skyline thru the
reddest red flowers
eating the blue up like a whale
from Carolina to Baltimore,
a whale of a train

singing like whales
under the waves
like a pipe organ under
the water
shake your lips and rock the baby
dream the Sunset Limited
will get you out
and away and
then bring you home

painters and poets


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