We Called It Armistice Day

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Until we didn’t—on parents’ day at school
our teacher asked, Does anyone know
the new name of this day?
I turned around, looked at
my father on a folding chair
leaning against his cane—

Cracked speckled terrazzo floors
in the halls, dark wood in the classrooms.
Windows climbed up to the ceiling.
Playground half-cement, the rest blacktop–
the farther from the school the rougher the boys played–
the girls sat on the brick wall by Christopher Avenue,
in sixth grade some got bras, the rest of us were
flat-chested under our white safety patrol belts—

 

My father always asked, was her father in the service?
Army? Navy, maybe? Only my uncle
stayed out of the war—he was too old
had kids had asthma–

My father got a scar on his forehead

got a smoking habit, lost thirty-five pounds in Manchuria,
he  told us  he forecast the weather in China
so we could beat the Japs,
he ate rice and– he averred–dogs and cats
he  flew over the hump–
then sailed to Oran, took a troop ship home,
was skinny when he came off the gangplank
my mother said he didn’t sleep well,
her Dalmatian growled at him.
My father  didn’t like the house
she bought when he was away—

He bought the Legion’s paper poppies after church
or in the Food Fair parking lot.
I kept them on my dresser
clear up till Christmas.

 

 

Copyright  2015 Lynne Viti

 

“Twin Dream,” published today in The Maynard

Twin Dream

He appeared out of nowhere, much younger than he is,
slender, prematurely balding, full sideburns and beard,
with that urgency in his voice I remembered so well.
He was breathless, agitated.
A twin baby, he said, I want a twin baby.
Not both, just the one.

Did he want me to produce the child, push it out,
find one somewhere for him? And why,
I wondered, with two grown sons,
two daughters, raised up and on their way
would he want a baby, and why a twin, and what
of the other, the second twin?

Did his wife want the twin baby too, or was this
some harebrained idea leaping out
of his seventy year old head
like Athena shot out of the head of Zeus?

I sank back into sleep.
The snowplows sent their electronic beeps
up and down the street outside,
backing up, punctuating each task
with staccato signals. Flannel sheets,
feather comforter weighed on me.
I was in a sweat, the bedroom window
open only a quarter inch, the humidifier
humming be quiet, be quiet.
Still he insisted, a baby, a twin.

I propped myself up on an elbow, saw
last night’s book splayed on the night table.
The plows spoke to each other. I
fell back asleep, this time in a dreamless state.

When day came, I looked out to see
the trucks had done their work, dismantled
the snow hills and carried them off.
The sidewalks were cleared.

                                                   Lynne Viti

http://themaynard.org/Vol10No2/TwinDream.php

“Walking Home”

I wrote this poem after I walked home from dropping my car off at the garage for body work. I’d driven along Washington Street in Dedham, Massachusetts,  countless times, but had never seen it on foot, had never noticed so many things.
The poem was published today in Califragile.

9417 Maryland State Flower framed

MD State Flower
by Jeff Blum

Walking Home

Driving, we see nothing, eyes always on the road,
We’re on the lookout for red lights, cars that veer into our lane.
We miss: Cigarette butts mounded near a sewer cover,
houses needing paint or new shingles, fronted by
drought-proof gardens of cosmos and black-eyed Susan,
coneflowers, sedum, wood asters a yard tall.
A turquoise flip-flop upside down in the gutter,
lambs’ quarters that spring from cracks on the overpass.
A wooden table and chairs in a sunken sideyard,
a snow thrower against the chain link fence,
brown crabgrass plumes packed with seeds.
Cars on the highway flying by under a new bridge of
bright white concrete, high chainlink fence to warn off suicides.
Abandoned gas station masked by ailanthus, blackthorn, scrub oak.
Behind them, a twenty-foot boat looms, shrink-wrapped in white plastic.
Old auto repair shop, windows broken, black paint faded to grey,
grass pushing up through concrete. Uninvited plants—
nothing stops them. Behind the wheel, we miss all this.

“More Dangerous for All of Us”

This poem started out as an account of animal sounds we heard late at night, coming from somewhere outside our bedroom window this past  spring. It turned into something else, along the way…and the final version appears in the Spring 2017  Central Michigan University’s lit mag, Temenos.  This issue is entitled Coyote Dreams: A Prayer Manual.

 

More DangerousIMG_2647.JPG

 

Two new poems of mine, in a new anthology, “I Come From the World”

I’m thrilled to be part of this new venture–and to have my poem alongside that of fellow Baltimorean and distinguished  poet Baron Wormser!

Read two of my poems , “The Glamorganshire Bible” and “The Kid: Cumberland 1923”–here:

https://icomefromtheworld.org/the-glamorganshire-bible-the-kid-cumberland-1923/

The Shadow of the Lost Object Falls Across the Ego

My poem appears in the new issue of In-Flight Literary Magazine.

 

A faint image, so vague you hardly know
if what you miss so much was there to begin with.
Other times, what once seemed so present
sucks the breath away, you gasp for air—
but only for a second.  You don’t die, not yet, anyway—
that’s a long way off, though at this moment there’s
darkness, the tight grip on the belly, the dank sheets,
the narrow bed traded for the old, accommodating one.
This wave of absence edges out hunger, and the need
to stand under the pelting water
of the morning shower. Nothing is as it should be, or
as it was. Freud, who got almost nothing right,
explained it: The ego bends under the weight of loss,
flattened, wanting to sink into stink and hunger.
This is all insupportable. You take a decision,
climb out of your sweat-soaked bed,
plod down wooden stairs in slippers,
pretend there’s something to get up for,
if only a nod from the man who every trash day
combs the overflowing barrels.

“November Sunset: 4:14 PM,” in Bear Review

I wrote this poem, a broken sonnet,  as part of a poem-a-day series I did last fall,  on the approach of the winter solstice. It appears online (and in print)  in Bear Review, out of St. Louis, Issue 3, Spring 2017.

November Sunset: 4:14 PM

As I cut the skinny branches of the smokebush
I hear a loud rattle in the sky. A black helicopter
descends, disappears. The noise of the chopper
carries from the playground at the end of the block.
I snip branches into small pieces, toss them
into the leaf bag with the rosebush clippings.
A woman walking by with her young daughters
tells me the helicopter med-vac’d someone,
deposited the accident victim with the EMTS.
The afterschool director ran out to investigate.
I drag the last leaf bag to lean against the retaining wall.
All that’s left alive: the rosemary, hellebore, a lone red cabbage.
The solstice approaches, a fixed point in the middle distance.
Inside, the black night shows itself in tall kitchen windows.

 

 

“Rye Middle School,” in Silver Birch Press’ My First JOB series

I’m pleased  that my poem appears in Silver Birch’s My First JOB  series, and  wonder if a few of my former  Rye Middle School students  might stumble across this reminiscence…

https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/rye-middle-school-poem-by-lynne-viti-my-first-job-poetry-and-prose-series/

“Late Afternoons,” for EveryWoman who’s ever been hit on at work by her boss…

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I finished my degree, found a teaching post
at a good university, my chairman, a tall, broad
Iowa-bred guy of sixty with big hands, big feet,
told big stories about flying in the bombing raids
on Dresden during the war. He seemed kind,
jovial, devoted to the work.
He made sure I met all the right people at conferences,
encouraged me to publish more, he raved
in his observation reports about my classes.
He shared details of his
grown children’s good news, he praised his wife.
But one late afternoon in his office, when everyone else
had gone home, when we were talking about plans
for summer school courses, when we had finished
talking, when I had glanced at the bits of peanut shells
and husks on his desk, he suddenly rose from his chair,
the heavy green metal desk no longer between us,
came at me fast, a strong arm swept around me, he
Bbegan to pull me close. He said he’d
“earned the right to do this.”  Stunned,
I leaned away, he pulled me in tighter.  I ducked out
of this bear’s embrace, grabbed
my coat and book bag, ran upstairs to the lobby,
my heart thumping. The night custodian
slowly pushed his wide dust mop across the floor.
Shy,  a man of few words, he smiled weakly ,
told me it was time to go home, his usual farewell.
When I got to my car my hand shook
as I tried the key in the ignition switch.
I didn’t tell anyone for years.

Yes,  my mother schooled me well,
said if this ever happens,
kick him in the privates, or use
your knee to the groin—as hard as you can.
I trusted this oaf, mistook him for a mentor.
Now I see it was all training me for that moment,
when students had disappeared to their dorms,
faculty had packed up their lecture notes, headed home.
He had handled me as he would a feral cat,
slowly brought from the wild into his sphere of influence
with bits of food, kind words, shelter from weather.

It’s been decades. He’s dead now, or
I’d have a few words with that
sonofabitch.

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Bad Hombres and Nasty Women,  The Raving Press, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

“Viral” and “Sugar Pumpkins”

 

imgresTwo of my poems appear in the May/Spring 2017 issue of the online South Florida Poetry Journal. You can find them here–and  use the audio link to hear  me read them!  Scroll a long way down on the page –or do a Find /search for Viti.

 

Anniversary

We’ve lived in these bodies so long.
Don’t think about their diminished condition,
the damage gravity has done,
don’t  worry if our legs feel papery.
I like the way they intertwine
on the old blue sheets.
Forget that your beard’s now flecked with white,
that what once seemed merely sun lines
are crow’s feet etched in deep symmetry on my face.
Ignore the muscle cramps that interrupt our play.

Your eyes are the dark eyes
That saw me that first night.
Your right hand is the same one
that brushed against me. You leaned over to
open the car door for me,
spilling me out onto the sidewalk.

I slid out, muttered thanks, goodnight—
Turned at the front steps, perplexed,
went home when I should have turned back to you.

 

Originally published  on March 10, 2017 in  the online ‘zine, Work to A Calm

A request if you’ve already purchased Baltimore Girls–and another one if you have not!

Dear readers,

I thank those of you who have already purchased Baltimore Girls for your support–especially if you pre-ordered from Finishing Line Press.

If you pre-ordered but have not yet received your book, contact me immediately and I will see that another copy is mailed to you within one business day!

I’m collecting photos of my readers holding up the book, for a checkerboard poster I am assembling. If you’d like to be in the poster along with the 23 readers who’ve already sent me their photos, please send your photo along, as a posting to my Facebook page (Lynne Spigelmire Viti) or by email. It’s time for your 15 minutes of fame!

And-your turn to write something– a review of Baltimore Girls on amazon.com. Go to the amazon listing for the book,  and scroll down to the bottom where you see Write a Review. Then write!

If you did not pre-order Baltimore Girls,  I have 100 copies of BG in my home office that i would love to unload. Proceeds from sales of these copies, which I received from Finishing Line in lieu of royalties, will be divided equally between the scholarship fund at my alma mater, Mercy High of Baltimore, MD, and Epiphany School, Boston, a private, tuition-free  middle school for Boston youth. Both are strongly faith-based schools that emphasize academics and character development. Both schools need financial support.

The cost of the book is $13.99. I will take care of postage costs if you live in the U.S. If you’d like to round up and give even more to Mercy High and Epiphany, I’ll be delighted.

You can email me at my school address, lviti@wellesley.edu, leave a comment here with your contact info (I won’t publish the comment ) or send me a tweet @Lynne Viti.

Thanks!

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Lynne Viti reads her  poetry at the  Westwood Public Library, Westwood, MA, April 3.

The Nancy Ruth Levine Tanka Contest

Nancy Ruth Levine, my former student from my days teaching in the English Department at Westhill High School in Stamford, Connecticut in the mid-Seventies,  challenged me and others to a Tanka contest.

The Tanka is a Japanese closed form. The most typical meter is 5/7/5/7/7.

Here’s mine:

Teacher’s Complaint

No one’s read the book
Except my three best students;
Discussion flagging,
The slackers dream of spring break—
London,Iceland,Cozumel.

 

 

Add yours, in a comment!

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Gardner Museum

 

Since today, March 18, is the 27th anniversary of the Gardner Museum heist, in which 13 works of art (including several by Degas, a Rembrandt, and a Vermeer) were stolen from the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum and never recovered–I thought it was fitting to republish my poem about the robbery. The thieves have never been found or brought to justice, and to date, the paintings have not been found.

Sunday Afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner

Thieves in darkness smart enough to wear
cops’ uniforms, clever enough to talk
their way into the mansion
crammed with rich tapestries,
room after room of paintings, drawings
bowls, sculptures, carvings—
thieves experienced enough to tie up
museum guards, dazed and sleepy on the graveyard shift,
I suppose these interlopers came armed
with a shopping list and box cutters,
worked quickly, lifting the art
from the wall, and not gently,
slashed the canvass from each frame.

In the dim light they must have complained
about the working conditions as they moved
from the Rembrandt to the Vermeer, the Degas
— the unlucky thirteen stolen works, thirteen fruits
but for whom? A prince shut up in his rich apartment
somewhere between Boston and the South Seas,
or a Brandoesque recluse in London or Philadelphia
with only a handful of friends—no, acquaintances—
who’d see his art, and gasp or sigh, perhaps even
touch the oil paint, tracing the drapery of Christ’s garment,
so that nicotine-stained fingers rubbed against
the master’s brush strokes, the light that seemed
to gather in the painted figure’s eyes and shine out
from paint and canvas to catch the viewer’s gaze?

Or maybe the canvasses are shut-ins themselves,
rolled up and stashed in an attic or barn,
the thieves perhaps not so smart after all,
now long dead and their confidants
addled hoarders, barricaded behind newspapers, junk mail,
packing boxes that fill floor to ceiling, leaving
only a narrow path from front door to kitchen.

The museum’s glass addition sparkles
in the winter sun, people line up in the glittering
entryway, pay the price of admission and wander
from gallery to gallery, fixing on what’s here,
every wall covered, the art jammed so closely
it’s easy to forget what’s not there
till you enter, single file, the room
with the empty frames, the nothing of it all
startles you, and you think
who did this, and why?

Hard not to take it personally,
the absence of these canvasses,
as if you could walk right up to the woman
in long black evening dress, the pearls glistening
around her white neck, roping her waist,
and whisper sympathetic words– great loss,
dear Isabella, infuriating, irreplaceable, tragedy—

Walk through the crowd waiting to retrieve
coats and umbrellas, more people
than you’ve ever seen here, hear them
talking about the missing stuff, wondering
aloud, asking guards for details, hear
the same story over and over, it’s
a prayer that ends with
Give it back, give us back our art.

 

 

 

 

 

“Fusion,” in Quail Bell Magazine

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Claire was stuck in traffic, edging into the left turn lane just before Central Square, when she glanced over to the near left corner of a side street and saw the makeshift booth set up. Someone had used black magic marker to draw a Hitler mustache on Barack Obama’s face. She used to love that campaign poster from 2004, the one that proclaimed HOPE in large letters across the bottom.

It was those kids again, the ones who sold the newspaper with the same bizarre, fake news stories month after month. The car ahead of her wasn’t moving an inch, and Claire leaned to her left to find out what was causing the holdup. A long line of cars stood idling in the left lane. Maybe the signal was on the fritz. Or someone wanting to make a left turn was waiting for a break. Either way, Claire had time to observe the action on the sidewalk. IMPEACH OBAMA, the poster’s block letters entreated passers-by. Two women with young children veered away from the kids in the booth, moving into the crosswalk to cross Mass Ave.

Claire was on her way to visit her friend Rosie…read the rest at Quail Bell Magazine.

“Baltimore Girls” has shipped!

My friend –and guest lecturer visiting from U of Miami– Gina Maranto snapped these  photos, as I was opening the shipment of my 100 copies of Baltimore girls, last Thursday when we returned from a long teaching day.

 

If you did not pre-order, I have 100 copies I’d like to part with, so if you’re in the greater Boston area, let me know. I deliver signed copies!! If you’re farther away, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Finishing Line Press carry the book.  Or wait till I come to Baltimore or Stamford, CT, and come to my readings–I  will be selling and signing books!

 

Next reading: Sunday, April 2, 2017, Westwood Public Library,  660 High St, Westwood, MA 02090, 2-4 PM

 

 

Influenza

 

No more will I poke fun at people who wear surgical masks on public transportation, or those who eschew the hug or handshake of peace at church, preferring the elbow bump, so popular a couple of years ago when flu was rampant.

Remember? Hand sanitizers appeared everywhere–at the public library, at a front pew at my Episcopal church, and in the hallways at the college where I teach. I kept a pump dispenser of Purel on the desk in my faculty office. I washed my hands  so any times a day that it called to mind Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, the one that my Hamilton Junior High eighth grade teacher, Miss Ruth Magill, made us memorize. Continue reading “Influenza”

I’m “live” today on the Jungle Red Mystery Authors Website!

Please post your questions and comments there about poetry, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson. Shel Silverstein, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Leonard Cohen, Alice Notley, Joyce Kilmer, John Greenleaf Whittier, and more!

Here’s the website url.screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-9-04-43-am

Guest Blogging on Jungle Red, Feb. 25

My pal Hallie Ephron, one of the Jungle Red mystery authors, has invited me to guest blog  on Jungle Red next Friday, February 25.  their tagline: “8 smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing and life. It’s the View–with bodies.”

The Jungle Red website features eight women mystery authors, many of them winners of prestigious awards: the Edgars, Agathas, Anthonys, Neros, and more.

Of course, I won’t be talking/writing about Private investigators,  or who was responsible for that corpse in a mystery novel, but about my poetry–how I came to it, my writing process, where I come up with ideas for the poems.

My poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, is in the works at Finishing Line Press, although the February 24 delivery date has been pushed a few weeks later. Pre-orderers, please be patient–this small literary press in Kentucky is working as fast as it can to get the book to you.

Take a look at the Jungle Red blog now, and again on February 25 when I blog. Its interactive feature allows readers to comment or ask questions of the guest blogger, and I will be checking in all day (and early evening) long to see what you have to say.

Hallie will start us off with her interview with me, and you, readers, can take it from there!

Hope to see you–virtually–on February 25, from 9 AM EST to 9 PM EST! Please come!

 

The Color of Her Volkswagen

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The Color of Her Volkswagen

 

Atlas blue. First Bug I ever saw.
It showed up one day, a shiny little thing
in Miss Kay’s driveway two doors down.
Their old Dodge long gone.
People on our street drove Chevys or Fords,
nobody even knew how to say Volkswagen,
were skeptical about a foreign car, but
Miss Kay packed up picnic basket, playpen, her toddler son,
the baby, her Coppertone oil. There was room
for my sister and me. I rode in the front,
watched Miss Kay shift the gears, her pedicured feet
depressing the gas pedal, working the clutch
like an extension of her body. She tuned
the radio to WFBR, the Four Lads sang
Standin’ on the Corner Watchin’All the Girls.
She didn’t like rock n’ roll.
When we got to the swimming place, an old
quarry now flooded with water, now a club
where you bought a daily membership,
the loudspeaker blasted my kind of music—
repeated every hour. We ate peanut butter sandwiches,
Miss Kay plunged into the water from a dock.
She wore a green bikini, adjusted the top
over her small breasts when she emerged from the water.
I slathered on her suntan oil, bounced the baby.
Around us, teenaged girls mixed iodine and baby oil,
greased up their arms and legs and shoulders,
lit Newports and blew smoke rings.
I longed to be like them. Homeward, the blue VW
rolled up and down country roads back to the city,
steaming streets, dried little lawns.

[Reprinted from Maryland Writer’s Association magazine, Pen-in_Hand, January 2017]

Catherine  Mumford Cave, Miss Kay in this poem,  shuffled off this mortal coil on September 22, 2016.  She was a kind  and inspiring neighbor who shared her talents as a cook, gardener, seamstress, and all around cool adult with the neighborhood kids. She also gave me my first babysitting job. I wrote this poem last winter.

 

The Color of Her Volkswagen

 

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My poem, “The Color of Her Volkswagen,” about an afternoon at Oregon Ridge Swimming “Club,” circa 1960 , appears in the winter issue (page 17) of Pen-in-Hand, the official literary and art publication of the Maryland Writers’ Association. Mad props to Sr. Carol Wheeler, and Sr. August Reilly, RSMs who taught me in Creative English class at Mercy High, Baltimore, and my 21st century poetry mentor, Boston Poet Laureate Emeritus Sam Cornish…
http://marylandwriters.org/…/Newslet…/pen_in_handjan2017.pdf

The 365th Day

 

This is the day we do that summing up.

Annoying, isn’t it, the way

we tally and sort the year’s days

into the things –or people—we like and those

that caused us pain? We inventory

and discard, if we’re smart, whatever

no longer works, or what

carries no joy. We have this need

to take stock, as though we

were running a giant store full of

stuff, boots and gloves, or jars

of face cream and scented soaps.

This year let it alone,

think instead of the faint yellow blush

on the forsythia. Soon we can snip

its branches, hammer the stems

against the stone walk, set it all

in warm water in an old jar.

The small blooms, and then

tender green leaves will unfold

in the corner window.

Forcing spring

in midwinter.

 

Reprinted from Hedgerow, # 19

Boxing Day

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Here’s a reprint of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, about the day after Christmas, also known as St. Stephen’s Day. Fans of Downton Abbey will know that Boxing Day takes its name from a British tradition — families with servants gave them the day off, to allow them to go home and visit their families. Employers gave their staff  gifts in “Christmas boxes.”

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Pre-ordering window for my forthcoming poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, part of Finishing Line Press’ New Women’s Voices series, runs through January 6, 2017. You can pre-order online here. 

 

“Transitions”:My poem, “Cyber Monday” published today by Indolent Books–

as part of the poem-a-day “Transitions” Project–A poem-a-day by a different poet responding to the recent Presidential election, from Nov. 9 to Jan. 20

You can find my poem here.

“Baltimore Girls” -Enormous Gratitude!

.. to those who pre-ordered “Baltimore Girls” last week! Thanks to my cousins in Ohio and Baltimore, old UNY of Maryland pals from high school days, former teaching colleagues at Boston U, Westwood women, my St. John’s family, my librarian network, Dwight Street alums, Stamford friends, and Barnard women. Continue reading ““Baltimore Girls” -Enormous Gratitude!”

My Mother on My Cousin’s Wedding Day

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Children weren’t invited. That
wasn’t fair. I was thirteen,
had never seen a wedding, except on television.
She opened a small flat box of nylon stockings,
pulled them on gently, fastened them to her girdle.
I watched  her pull the beige lace dress over her head,
shake it down her slender frame, gently push
her  arms through the sleeves.
I zipped the dress closed.

I climbed onto her bed, mesmerized by the lace sheath.
Paid full price too, she murmured.  Coral high heeled pumps,
matching clutch purse, sparkling costume jewelry.
She leaned towards the mirror to put on her lipstick,
coral, like the shoes. From a department store box she
withdrew an ivory hat, broad brimmed in the front,
covered with tulle.

My father waited downstairs in his favorite chair
trying not to sweat in the August heat.
I followed them out the front door, sat
on the porch steps, the concrete hot on my thighs.
The green and white fins of our Chevy disappeared
down the street. She was forty-five. I knew
she’d be the prettiest, best-dressed lady there.

She wore the lace dress again, over and over,
and the coral shoes. But the hat
Stayed in back of the closet for years
till one day the square box went to Goodwill
because nobody wore hats any more.

 

Reprinted from Light:A Journal of Photography and Poetry, January 2017, inaugural issue

For more Baltimore poems, pre-order my forthcoming collection, Baltimore Girls, from Finishing Line Press. You can order from the publisher’s website. Pre-ordering runs now through January 6, 2017. Profits from pre-orders will be divided between  the Mercy High School, Baltimore scholarship fund, and Epiphany School, Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 1: Sunset 4:10 PM

It’s oddly warm. We strip the garden,
pull down three-foot-high blackened marigolds,
cleome, borage, yank out bamboo stakes.
The young arugula we planted weeks ago is
ready for harvest, the lily leaves slimy, brown.
Mole tunnels run under the sandy soil
in the mulch-covered plot by the fenced-in garden.
By three the sun is low, a glare in our faces.
We work against the clock, against the moment
when the sun will drop behind the trees, the sky
will be streaked with a narrow line of pink-orange.
The cottage is cold, the water shut off.
The detritus of last summer’s glorious blooms
lies in a pile. We weight the mess with fallen branches.
There’s no time to rest, put our feet up, imagine
what this will all look like, come spring.
Now everything must sleep the sleep of winter,
must die, and must— we hope— come back to life.
But first, the death of the garden, dormant, cold
shadowed by our uncertainty, our fears
that this short day is all we have, and own.

blueberry_bush_winter

Black Sunday, Sunset 4:14 PM

 

imgresLast day of raking, raking and bagging leaves.  First, a visit to our friend D who’s been back in the hospital the past three weeks. Now, he’s waiting for  blood count data pending a possible second stem cell transplant.

I come home to face one last hour of leaf bagging before the sun sets. I grab handfuls of damp, decaying  leaves from the edges of the stone-bordered garden. I leave the rest in the center,stuck to the ground in flat sheets, a blanketlike mulch  to keep  the perennials safe till spring. Continue reading “Black Sunday, Sunset 4:14 PM”

Sunset, 4:16 PM EST

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East Coast of the U.S. of A.  Overcast, chilly,  at noon it seems as though it’s nearly day’s end. The rain turns to a drizzle, I find it’s easier to rake leaves and stow them in the brown paper leaf bags, I’m not concerned someone will see me in my black and white flannel p.j.bottoms, the ones that have a matching Ruth Bader Ginsburg top, though that’s well hidden under my fleece, a nine-year old Polartec made in U.S.A. that’s my bed jacket, my go-to-yoga-class wrap over my t-shirt, my crawl half under the bed and pull out the dust bunnies uniform. Continue reading “Sunset, 4:16 PM EST”

from “Baltimore Girls”

I began my day at an early yoga class, twenty of us on the mat at 8:30 A.M. Leaf raking and filling the lawn bags with garden detritus by 10. Now, the turkey’s in the oven, the vegetables are all trimmed and ready to cook, the pie is cooling on the counter, the table is set, and the men in my small family are downstairs talking about the electoral college and playing with our new kitten.

I’m thankful for many things, but for you reading this blog, I’m thankful for your continued attention your comments, and to many of you–65 so far–a sincere thank you for pre-ordering y poetry chapbook, Baltimore Girls, from Finishing Line Press, due out February 24, 2017. You can pre-order online here,  and be certain of getting your hands on a copy of the collection.

Why pre-ordering is important: Finishing Line, a small poetry publisher, does not pay authors in cash, but in copies. The more pre-orders, the large the press run, and the more copies of the book Finishing Lien will give me in lieu of payment. I’ll be able to sell these at the same price, $13.99, and give the proceeds to Mercy High Baltimore‘s scholarship funds, and Epiphany School Boston, an independent, tuition-free middle school for children of economically-disadvantaged families from Boston neighborhoods.

Fans of the HBO series (2005-2009) The Wire, check out the blurb from Wire teleplay writer and  stalwart Crabtown author, Rafael Alvarez.

Here’s the dedication for the book:

For the Baltimore girls: Chris, Debbie, Francine, and Gay

–and one of the poems to whet your literary appetite:

Nickel Dreams

Along the Fuller Brook path wending
through backyards, there’s no one about
except a few women with
small dogs on leashes. The brook – Continue reading “from “Baltimore Girls””

An excerpt from my “Baltimore Girls” poetry collection

Here’s the opening poem from my forthcoming chapbook, Baltimore Girls, available  for pre-order now from Finishing Line Press. The poem originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of A New Ulster, a Northern Ireland literary and arts magazine.

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Salad Days

We lived at home, were always home
for dinner. We thought we dressed like women, but only
when we peeled off the school uniforms and slid into
plaid kilts, blouses with Peter Pan collars and circle pins,
loafers, on Friday night, for a church hall dance.
We thought we knew everything, though we only
knew everything about the things we read in books
or heard on the bus, or on the street. We read
magazines to learn how to flirt.
Being sophisticated meant smoking Benson and Hedges,
we wondered how old we’d have to be
to drink at a cousin’s wedding.
Our mothers thought our world was crazy.
Too much Orbison and Presley, then in a whirr,
James Brown, the man in the orange cape, and
the Beatles, who made us scream, or the
Subversive Dylan, who questioned us,
How does it feel, to be on your own?
–when our mothers wanted us to be safe,.
Take the bus to school, be home on time.
No drinking, no smoking, study hard,
Go to college. Find a nice boy. Get
married, stay in town. Our town, which
changed and burned, changed and burned again.

Some of us left, and those who
Stayed didn’t always follow the playbook.
We are neither who we were when we were sixteen
Nor are we different from who we were, inside,
even though we’ve tried like crazy to: speak up,
grow up, let go, not judge, relax, achieve, kick back,
question, breathe, believe, not believe—

Now we size ourselves up
against the dreams and goals and fantasies
we had as girls, the plans we spoke of,
the ones we hid. Back then, we didn’t say
It’s all good, but it is. The whole journey,
The paths and detours, all good, all worth
something, the living of it, the becoming,
never stepping into the same river twice.


 

 

Advance review of Baltimore Girls, my poetry chapbook, by Baltimore-born poet Sam Cornish, Poet Laureate of Boston, 2008-2014

Please support my writing and Mercy High School,  Baltimore and Epiphany School, Boston, –by reserving your copy of my poetry chapbook between November 19, 2016  and January 6, 2017-at Finishing Line Press. The number of pre-orders will determine the number of the first press run! 

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Baltimore Girls … examines the poet’s early life in the 1960s and the culture in which she grew up. It is personal history — tales of a small group of young women who lived in the segregated city of my youth. The poems are mini-memoirs, snapshots of young women who had determined they were bound for greater things: “we were in a hurry to get out of town, out of state, through school, to a job…”

Although Viti tells us she “left as fast as she could,” her memories of people, places and her hometown culture remain vivid and sharp, filled with the manners and rituals of the era. She recounts a teen-age date as “a talisman of my life to come” because they spent the time talking “about the war, about Yeats…” This collection is significant for its realism, its honesty and its attention to detail. The poems are specific and descriptive, reminiscent of the lyric realism of James T. Farrell. This book establishes Viti as a poet of the memoir and local history. Her memories of time and place will resonate with many readers.

— Sam Cornish, Poet Laureate of Boston, Massachusetts, 2008-2014

Eve’s Diary in “South Florida Poetry Journal” November issue

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[Read the full poem  in issue 3 of the  SoFloPoJo!]

 

The garden was there before we were.

It was so easy to tend. We had only to pluck
the ripe fruits, gather flowers–
I loved the red ones best–
to fashion garlands for our hair. Mine
was long, I combed it with my fingers,
pulled it hard to one side, always to the left–
braided it so that the rope of golden hair
grazed my shoulder, fell over my breast.
We sometimes pruned branches
after the deutzia dropped its last white blooms,
tossed the clippings in the corner of our vast
yard, returned to lie under the rose-covered pergola.
We spent our days singing, entwining our limbs…

for the rest, please go here, to the SOFLOPOJo site!

 

 

Finalist for the Grey Borders Press (Ontario, Canada)

Happy to announce that I am one of five finalists for this poetry chapbook contest sponsored by Grey Borders Press. The finalists are:

Lynne Viti “Shades at the Reunion”
Dane Swan “Tuesday”
Piotr Pawlowski “Wintergreen Studio Press”
Jonathan Lepp “Hopping On”
Ken Pobo “Dust and Chrsantinums”

A decision on the winner will be announced (hopefully) by Friday September 30th on Grey Borders’ homepage. Stay tuned!

Best of the Net Nomination for “Higher Math”

Happy to learn today that my poem, “Higher Math,” inspired by my friend Roger, has been nominated for Best of the Net  Poetry 2016, by Work to a Calm editor Nastia Lenkova. The poem appeared in the February 2016 issue, and you can read it here. 

Last Sunday in July

Sun, then not-sun, clouds

then not-clouds,

warm, then not-warm.

This slender land can’t

make up its mind.

Cool breezes,

fungi of every color erupt–

red, colonies of chocolate brown,

or white, something you might

find in your salad.

Not much to do save

listen to Bill Evans ply the piano,

wrestle with the crossword,

turn off the phone.

 

   –Reprinted from Old Frog Pond

I Learned That Marilyn Had Died

 

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Not Monroe but Marilyn the English teacher
Who befriended me the first day of my first job
Who invited me to her thirtieth birthday—
Marilyn the inveterate New Yorker
from West Virginia who lived
in a tiny studio on the
Upper East Side when
Nobody could afford to live there.
Marilyn who taught me how to sew pantsuits
When it was radical to wear them to school.

Marilyn who had pale skin and black hair
A long face, a cutting word,
Who wouldn’t let her students say, This is boring,
But made them say instead, This did not reach me.
Marilyn died who slept with my ex after our breakup—
He can’t remember this because
He never remembers anything he did before
The new millennium.

I lost touch with Marilyn after she met a man
on the train coming back from Lake George.
She called to tell me she was engaged,
warned me not to get involved with a younger man.
I ignored her, never saw her again.

She liked dogs, a special breed, I don’t recall which one.
She never married, became one of those beloved teachers
Everyone remembers forever—

She told me her father used to leave her and her kid brother
Locked in the car on his way home, he stopped at a bar,
He’d be in there for hours drinking—
I’d never heard of a Jewish alcoholic

Or even Jews in West Virginia
She said they weren’t observant,
never went to temple, there was no bat mitzvah.

She loved the theater, the students, the Upper East Side,
Expensive scotch, fine restaurants in midtown, and the beach.
She loved Gatsby, Hamlet, Sylvia Plath, Melville,
Anne Sexton, John Donne.
She had the saddest face, even when she smiled,
Black lashes against white skin.
Her dark wit made me laugh and wonder
Really, what was so funny about what
Was so sad. I wish I knew
What became of her, before
Her short ticket was punched.

 

 

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from the Little Patuxent Review, Summer 2016

Campanology

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CAMPANOLOGY
—Lynne Viti

The bell had hung there forever, it seemed.
We came to the church with our children
after years of childlessness—sleeping in,
reading each section of the fat Sunday paper,
drinking café au lait from bowls made by potter-friends.
Sundays were for museum-going,
brunches out with mimosas, omelets filling
elegant white plates, walks around the reservoir.

The gray wood church was nothing like
the brick edifices of our childhoods,
pews stuffed with families,
lines of men standing along the aisles, holding their hats.
By the time we prodigals returned to church,
it was a half-forgotten ritual.
You could always get a seat.

White-robed acolytes, tasked with pulling
the fat white rope each Sunday,
were lifted up on tiptoe, pulled by the heavy bell.
Once, the smallest boy went aloft for a second.

Now the tower’s closed for business, the bell silent.
Rotted window frames, sagging beams
wait for the engineer’s report.
No peals disturb neighbors on the street
where the church stands, unremarkable, plain,
against a backdrop of pines and oaks.

This sixty-year old bell used to strike ten times,
a call to worship, a wedding. On the day
of the death ritual, the bell rang the ancient
three times three strokes for a man,
three times two for a woman.

Sliding into a pew this winter morning
I hear the near-absence of sound, or maybe only
the rustle of a choir robe, a cough, the accidental slam
of the front door as a latecomer slips in.
If it has a soul, the bell
must be bursting with the long wait,
its peals constrained. It’s an unnatural quiet—
its barrel still, ear asleep, its tongue tied.

Reprinted from Mountain Gazette, Summer 2016 issue

 

Common Onion

 

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Spring, I thought, pawing through the pantry
when the fat onion came into view,
its lemon-yellow sprouts a foot long.
The onion had shrunk back into itself,
responded to the slight pressure of my thumb
by caving in. A ruined bulb, it gave
all its life to those useless stems.

Outside it was nothing like spring, only
snowy, clouds obscuring the day.
Rigid piles of last week’s snow seven feet high
lined the roadway, soiled ramparts,
muddied, blackened, covering hydrants and saplings.

For weeks, the cat refused to go out,
preferring to lie on her favorite chair,
or leaping onto the bed at night
to steal some human warmth.

Boots lined the entryway, caked
with road salt, or chemicals strewn
along sidewalks and parking lots.
Our down coats shed tiny feathers,
gloves sprang holes,
shovels bent at their corners.

Everything in the house
was tired of winter, wanted to be finished
with clearing, chipping the detritus
of four storms, systems Siberia or Alaska
knew how to manage better, through
long years of bending under winter’s yoke.

This onion’s worth saving, was my first thought.
Then I tossed the pulpy thing
into the compost, consigned
to a pile of sweet-smelling rot.

~Lynne Viti

 

Reprinted from BlazeVOX Spring 2016

Planting Garlic

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Not Italian– I never saw garlic bulbs,
not even garlic powder in our kitchen.
Years later, when my Welsh mother
visited, sniffed the garlic cooking
in the skillet, before the bread cubes
joined it in the olive oil to brown
she said— Smells Italian. I watched her
pick the golden croutons out of her salad,
push them to the side of the plate.
It’s cold for October—yesterday
snow specks fell on our fleece jackets.
I yank up spent basil, arugula, cut rainbow chard,
consign tomato and pepper plants to the compost.
Along the inside periphery of the garden
I dig the holes, work in manure,
reach into my pocket and crack off a clove.
I lodge each one in its winter pocket,
make a row, turn the corner, make another,
cover the cloves and  tamp down the earth.
Then for good luck, stamp it all down with my heavy boots,
the ones that took me from Enna to Cefalu last May.
Not Italian, love garlic, wish it were April–
Better still, late June. When the school year ends,
we’ll dig up our succulent cloves,  slice
the translucent segments of the holy bulb.
I’ll think I hear my mother’s voice, long ago stilled
—Smells Italian.

–Lynne Viti

 

Reprinted from BlazeVOX Spring 2016

 

 

 

 

Blood Moon

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Tried to see it from the soccer field
At the school some want torn down—
no way to rehab it,
poor drainage, asbestos lurking in walls,
wrapped around pipes, Eisenhower-era
construction, additions tacked on when
children cropped up everywhere.

It’s chilly for September, the moon
a bright white orb. No competition from stars.
A sliver of shadow appears at the moon’s side,
creeps across.
It’s not happening fast enough for us.
We want to see the pink moon, the blood moon—

Huddled in this playground, we wonder
why no one else is here. Are they watching
the blood moon on their televisions,
getting a clearer, sharper, super-pink image?
I pull my sweater tighter around me.
The shadow across the moon moves—

Now the moon turns salmon pink
smaller than the white moon.
Out on the grass this night
we six— a tight knot— suck in cold air.
Not another blood moon for years.
Will we be alive then, will we care enough to step
outside wherever we live then,
tilt our heads back, marvel at the sky?

 

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Spring 2016 issue BlazeVOX

Ghazal

Ghazal

Could I go back there, could I return today?
By happy accident of physics, fly there today?

Transport myself back to those pale rooms,
Those hallways full of laughing girls, today?

We leaned in doorways, in late afternoons,
Confided secrets, triumphs, as we might today.

Our hair was gold, chestnut, or raven, catching light
From sunlight’s slant through windows, like today,

Though stronger rays, intense, in memory’s eye.
We sang in empty classrooms, looking towards today.

Who were we then? And are we still the same—
Though life has marred and marked us all deeply—today?

Thread the way back through long tunnel of years,
With young girls’ eyes see who we are today.

Make time collapse, forgive the petty sins and slurs,
The slights and cuts, back then and today?

Recall when all was bright before us, all was fresh,
Vows not yet made or kept or broken, as today.

Could memories of youth –not specters of old age,
New disappointments—infuse our hours here, today?

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Blaze Vox, Spring 2016

Pâtissière

for Christine V.

The December you made a poundcake
your mother’s fat cookbooks were stacked
all over the white kitchen.
The cupboards were so high you had
to stand on a wobbly stepladder.
I steadied it as you pulled down
the old china from Sauveterre.
It was painted with tiny roses and vines.
Plates just large enough for a fat slice
of buttery cake, dotted
with gold raisins and crushed pecans.

You couldn’t have been more than fifteen.
That winter you made your way through
Craig Claiborne, James Beard, Julia Child.
I’d see you
chin resting in  an open hand, one elbow
on the white table, the other
flipping through stained pages.

That egg yolk yellow cake was just
The  moister side of dry
but not dry, so solid
I made a meal of it. Have another,
you said, slicing through the thin brown top
into the golden mass of cake.
a pound of butter, you told me, a pound of flour,
a pound of extra fine sugar.
It’s  a recipe that’s
almost not a recipe at all.

You went off to college,  immersed
yourself in semiotics, found
a boyfriend, then later,
a husband, a divorce, then
a business partner, then two. You got
a love, a child, a flat that made its way
into the Times Home section.

There have been awards all these years
but not for cakes. There have been
honors, attestations, prizes. You’re famous,
on panels, on juries, you’re in Wikipedia!

Has there been no poundcake? No chipped china
from your grandmere? No recipe that’s
not a recipe at all?

You wore small tortoise shell glasses. Your hair
needed a good cut. You wiped
your buttery hands on your flannel shirt
and scraped the last bit of batter from the bowl.
You licked your fingers, wrapped
dish towels around your hands,
Slid the cast-iron pan into the oven.

Come back in two hours, you told me,
we’ll have cake for dinner tonight.

 

~Lynne Viti

 

This poem was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and appears in the 2015-2016 Paterson Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two of my new poems published today in “Califragile” online literary magazine

Skin and Bones

Signs of age mount in a crescendo—
colonies of skin tags behind the knees,
rough to the touch, subdued by Vaseline,
Centime-sized liver spots, identical to my mother’s
when she reached this age, forty years ago, Watergate days.
The nasolabial folds are more pronounced, engraved.
Small puffs have risen up under the eyes.
The fingers stiffened, two swollen at the midjoint
No point in dwelling on it—better to swallow naproxyn
two at a time, smear on arnica or diclofenac,
keep spinal fluid moving with cat and cow pose,
never stop—except to sleep, dream of youth’s body,
strong hands on the piano, on bicycle gears, or
fingers meeting palm in a tight, clenched fist.

 

Near Christmas at Newbury Court

From the fourth floor, through French doors’ dusty blinds
you can see black trees etched against fading blue-gray sky,
sky punctuated by a strip of pink near the horizon.
Then night sweeps in, not like summer
when the sun takes its time, hugging the world’s edge,
leaking its last light onto the bay.
On the sofa the old woman snores, jolts awake
says it must be time for supper. I help her to her walker,
I’m her balance because hers is gone.
I shuffle with her to the elevator,
shuffle with her down the windowless hall.
The smell of bland food hangs in the air.

 

 

Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. Her second chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in I Come From the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

Originally published online on September 16, 2017, in the September 2017 issue of Califragile.

Finishing Line Press to Publish “The Glamorganshire Bible”

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Note from Finishing Line Press editor and New Women’s Voices contest reader, Leah Maines

I’m very happy to announce that my second poetry chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible,  has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. Stay tuned for details.

Thanks to my readers–those who know me and those who know me through my writing–for your support!