IT’S THE ELBOW, THE HAND - Poem by Lyn Lifshin

IT’S THE ELBOW, THE HAND – Poem by Lyn Lifshin



MacDowell Colony, a spring

with the lilacs, divorce in the

just blooming rose air. “It’s

the elbow” a composer said,

that’s how you tell age. And

the hands.” Others supposed

I was in my twenties. A dating

service low on young women

asked if I’d let them say I was

22 they would pay me. But

this man said “Lyn, your

hands, I can tell you’re not

19.” Horrified, I spit out,

“scars, poison ivy, I covered

them with lotion, I burned

them.” He just shook his head.

Now I wear long sleeves,

fish net to show a little skin

but not enough so you’d

notice my elbows, my arms. I

buy shrug after shrug, sheer

dance jerseys, am glad I am

usually cold, that the ballroom

studio is freezing. Tonight in

a sweltering ballet class, all the

young girls in skimpy camisoles,

their arms taut and lovely 19,

20, maybe 22, I check  their

elbows, how the skin near the

armpits on some already show

where they will sag. The lucky

ones have Michelle Obama’s

but even some of the babies are

feeling earth’s mouths on them.

You have to look carefully

to notice. Their elbows still pretty

smooth, unwrinkled, mine

camouflaged in torn leotards

with the crotch cut out for a

top I hope looks a little like

skin. I checkout what positions

flatter, which disclose what

isn’t so nice, try on my 16th

birthday party sleeveless

rose dress. It’s held up

well, considering but I don’t

think of, can’t imagine

what’s ahead