Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

Lips — Lyn Lifshin

Yours, honey, were so perfect,

a little rosebud mouth, not

those puffed up blubbery

things, my mother says when

I pointed out the models’

collagen petals. “Roses,” my

mother always says, “that’s

what yours were, a nice

tiny nose. That’s from you

father. One good thing. Not

a big ugly one like I’ve got.”

I think of my mother’s lips,

moving close to my hair, how

her breath was always sweet.

“Too thin lips, like your father’s,

show stinginess.” She was

right. A man who couldn’t give

presents or love, a good word

or money. I only remember

three things he told me and

all begin with Don’t tho my

mother said stories came from

those lips, that he brought me a

big dog. I only remember the

thinness of his lips, how his

death meant I wouldn’t have to

leave school to testify for the

divorce. Lips. When I came home

from camp I found Love Without

Fear in the bathroom and read

“if a girl lets a man put his tongue

on her lips down there, she’ll let

him do anything,” then some

thing about deflowering. A

strange word I thought trying to

imagine flowers down there, rosebuds

not only on my mouth, a petal

opening, but a whole bush of petals,

a raft of roses someone kneeling

would take me away on, a sea of

roses, flowers and my lips the

island we’d escape to

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