Poetry for a Gray November Day: “At Dusk”

In the middle-aged heart
joy can bounce around  flow out
as blood moves through the arteries,
but despair can get stuck.

The two engage in battle:
joy enlisting hope, bliss, contentment–
despair conscripting doubt and anger.
A vessel of the  heart might rupture.

If I could grow the joy, I’d share it.
If I could exterminate the despair
I  would patent my invention.
Tomorrow, let’s watch the last bits of sun,
orange light fading behind the trees.

I’ll take your hand, we’ll laugh together.
This is what we’ll do before night falls.                                       ~Lynne Viti

First Snow of the Season

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After weeks of rain that left us seven inches above the average, when the raking of leaves in the yard and driveway wasn’t even halfway done, the first snow took us by surprise. Wet, fat flakes drifted onto the deck, making for an enchanting view when I switched on the floodlight that illuminated the back deck. Our cat was mesmerized by the steady stream of snowflakes. But all I could think was about my boots, not the fancy quilted heavy tread ones that I ordered last week, but my old leather boots–the ones sitting in the entryway next to the as-yet unused canister of waterproofing stuff.

I can’t find my everyday gloves, the red leather ones I wore to Fenway Park on September 25, when the fall night was raw and cold.  I can’t find my favorite scarf, the one from twenty Christmases ago. I’ve misplaced the fur-trimmed hood that zips onto my storm coat.  The ice scrapers are in the garage somewhere, lodged behind summer gardening tools and garden statuary, and lawn sprinklers. 

I’m not ready for winter.

Lucky for me the rain began in the early morning, and by the time I left for work the roads were clear.  The temperature had edged just above freezing. I grabbed an umbrella and headed to campus. On the drive in, I mentally repeated my mantra for the day: It’s not winter yet. It’s not winter yet, not till December 21, over five weeks away The forecast for tomorrow in New England is 48 F and party cloudy–or as I prefer to call it, partly sunny.

Winter’s in abeyance. And all’s right with the world, until we’re walloped with a real snowstorm.

This was’t even a dress rehearsal.

 

 

 

Veterans Day at the Little Dog Coffee Shop in Brunswick, Maine

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It’s 32 degrees on a sunny Sunday morning at the Little Dog Coffee Shop in Brunswick, an iconic New  England college town, population 20,000. The Little Dog, situated on the broad main street (named Maine Street), is abuzz with families and small children, oldsters sipping courtados or lattes  at tables for two,  and millenials eating egg and cheese sandwiches as they work at their laptops. We arrive at 9:30  when the place is almost empty. By the time we’ve had our coffee and read the news on our tablets,  there’s a long line at the counter, and not an empty chair to be found.

It’s cold enough for hats and gloves and the down coat I pulled from the back of the closet before we left for the weekend in Maine. Outside, we see  flags  at half staff, in honor of the soldiers and sailors who served in  past  wars, those of recent memory,  those going on for the last 18 years since 9/11, and those long past. Maybe I should be thinking about the wars, and the men and women who fought in them, but I’m so taken by the cold morning weather and the brilliant sunshine that I push that thought aside, happy that yesterday’s rainy weather hasn’t stuck around.

We’re only two hours north of Boston, but fall is about to wrap up here, and winter is standing by, just waiting to release the first snow onto this town.

Sunshine warms us as we walk up Maine Street, past the used records and books store,  back to our car. We head out of town and up to Harpswell, where fingers of water separate the land.

The sun dances on the water and on the bridges, and we drive on to our next Maine destination, up the road a piece.

 

My Father’s War

He’d always loved boats, being on the water.
Enlisted in the Navy at thirty-three, took up smoking, too,
signed up for top secret hazardous duty overseas.
But he didn’t go to sea—he went to

fight Japan from the ground in Manchuria,
Aerographer’s mate first class. He told us he
learned to track clouds—
Cirrus, cumulus, nimbus. Shaved his

head, all the men did, Naval intelligence said
that would fool the Japanese when they flew over. They lived
with Chinese soldiers and spies,  ate rice and whatever meat
their hosts could scare up. It might have been dogs.

I forecasted the weather, he told us, but
the records say otherwise:  First, to Calcutta for indoctrination,
how to eat with chopsticks, never insult the Chinese hosts.
Flew over the Hump, on to Happy Valley, east of Chunking.

Lived in camphor wood houses, drank water from teapot spouts.
The history books say they spied on Japanese troops and ships,
blew up enemy supply depots, laid mines in harbors,
trained Chinese soldiers in guerrilla warfare, rescued downed aviators.

When he left for San Pedro, my mother watched him pack
a long knife and a gun in his suitcase. Orders, he said. Top secret.
He told the same story twice about the gash on his forehead that
grew fainter over the years, till it was a thin line across his eyebrow.

He returned from his war malnourished, his teeth
rotting, he drank straight shots of whiskey,
chased it with beer. He brought silks embroidered by the Maryknolls,
He had the last rites twice.

He hated the Communists, Chiang Kai-Shek was his man.
I  never knew  it till after he died—he was no weatherman.

~Lynne Viti

Originally published in Light : A Journal of Poetry and Photography, December , 2016

 

Photos of Your Daughter’s Wedding Under the Mandap, Not the Chuppa

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On a night many nights after we spent

Five days a week in a fluorescent-bulb-lit classroom

You made grilled salmon with pesto,

sweet roots roasted in your white oven.

 

You poured glass after glass of Beaujolais

I  had to hover my hand over the glass

To stop you. We killed two bottles.

 

Talk of decades ago, I was young,

You were younger, our words danced around the years

Wove stories of those you knew and I didn’t

Or ones I knew and you didn’t

Or boys and girls, now grandparents, that we both knew—

 

In the morning I saw the photos

Of your daughter’s Indian wedding

Bridesmaids with hennaed hands and arms

Each arm extended as they danced.

The groom and bride weighed down

Under their rich wedding garments, their crowns.

 

You saw to it that a branchlet of cypress from your yard

was  tucked with the flowers pinned on orange cloth.

You’d tended the plant for a chuppa someday—

Now it graced the mandap. Your husband

tried to look comfortable in turn-up khussas,

long white kurta.

 

We could’ve talked all day but

I had a train to catch, you had work to do

All the time I rode back to Boston

Ignoring announcements , next stop New Haven, Mystic, Kingston

Things were happening—unfolding, the media said

In California. Long guns, body armor, shooters,

“they came prepared” the police chief told reporters—

 

 

So many dead, so many trapped in offices,

so many watching, so many questions, so many theories,

so many posts online.

Rifles and handguns, holiday banquet,

police chase, shootout— we‘ve seen this movie

more than once.

 

Assault rifles, handguns, ammo rounds,

remote control toy car, explosive device.

Thumb drives, cellphones, car rental agreement.

 

The AG said, “This is not what we stand for,

this is not what we live for.”

 

Prove to me she is right. Show me we live for

the wedding day, sunny November, pale bride,

dark groom under the mandap,

the grandmother in a bright blue shawl.

A day of peace, utter joy under bright Connecticut sky—

–what we live for, who we are.

 

~Lynne Viti, 2015

Originally published in 2016, in the literary journal, Amuse Bouche

 

Sugar Pumpkins

We’ve taken the automatic blanket down from the high shelf, have broken our old rule to refrain from turning on the heat in the  house before November 1, and all but the nasturtiums have surrendered to the first frost of the season.

It’s time for a poem about pumpkins.

This one was first published in the South Florida Poetry Journal, SoFloPoJo.

 

Sugar Pumpkins

We grew them in raised beds, their vines profuse,
the orange fruit scant. Hard to grow Cucurbita pepo

in a drought season. Still, the six we found shading themselves
under their companion leaves made us think we might grow

enough to feed ourselves all autumn long. The orange globes
sat on the mantel for months, past Thanksgiving,

when we exiled them to the foyer to make room
for Christmas rosemary and holly branches.

Tonight, we choose the largest sugar pumpkin,
carve a hole in the top, scrape out the seeds and strings.

In goes the mixture—rice, grapes, walnuts, onion, celery,
enough cumin to give it some heat.

When it’s baked to a turn, we slice it from the center,
so slender arcs of pumpkin fall into a circle, looking

more like a flower than a squash.  It tastes of pie
and of curry, redolent of the summer earth.

In Louisburgh, County Mayo, Thinking About Dublin

I’m  delighted that this poem, published a few weeks ago on the Muses Gallery of Highland Park Poetry, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Huge thanks to Highland Park Poetry for this honor!

 

In Louisburgh, County Mayo, Thinking About Dublin
The smell of burning peat in this steady morning rain
suggests a memory out of reach, something from years ago
when I got the notion to drain my small savings account,
head for Ireland, once final exams were read, grades in,
textbooks collected, counted, accounted for, our bosses
satisfied that the City of Stamford had gotten its due.
I was twenty-six, marriage in shreds, divorce papers drawn up—
I was seeking a different self, a poetic self.
I stayed a week in Dublin, wandering the paths Joyce describes.
Each day I distracted myself from the hole in my life,
went to the Abbey, met an American actor, a minor
figure on the Broadway stage who took me to an after-hours place
frequented by the Dublin theatre crowd— I could’ve sworn
when we knocked and the actor whispered the password,
the man who peeked out and opened the door was Milo O’Shea—
The actor and I drank Jameson’s neat, sipped it slowly.
In Boyle, County Roscommon, town of my great grandmother,
I wandered the cemetery, searching for the Sheekey graves.
The headstones from the days of the Great Hunger hid in the high grass.
I rented a small red Ford, drove across Ireland,
slowing down, stopping often for the sheep, accepting waves
from old farmers as I shifted into first gear, on to the next village
stopping each night to find a room and perhaps supper—
Supper identical to breakfast, eggs and rashers,
Brown bread and white, tomato, tea, lashings of butter—
I ate too much and drank the Guinness, which fattened me up–
I outsized my waistbands. I was growing in my grief:
Instead of wasting away. I came home a stone heavier,
a bottle of Jameson’s in my duty-free bag.

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A Voyage of the Imagination — “Water Path from Frog Pond to the Assabet”

When times are challenging-– and they certainly have been lately– I take inspiration from William Wordsworth and find solace in  nature. I began writing this poem in situ at an organic farm and sculpture studio in Harvard, Massachusetts, once a rural area of apple orchards. Old Frog Pond Farm is one of the surviving working farms west of Boston.

This poem was recently published in  the Old Frog Pond Farm anthology of plein air poetry, edited by Susan Richmond.   The theme for this year’s anthology and September 16, 2018 plein air  reading was  Paths, Tracks, and Trails.  

In a voyage of the imagination, my poem traces the water path from Old Frog Pond (on an organic farm dotted with sculptures by amazing artists) to the grasslands of the Assabet River.

Water Path, from Frog Pond to the Assabet

Ignore the overturned canoe on the lawn.
Don’t linger studying the lily pads on the green pond today.
Focus instead on the water, on where it’s headed.

The  highway thrums in the distance. Here, Queen Anne’s lace
sprouts from  cracks in the cement embankment.
Walk around two metal chairs placed at a ten-foot distance from a third
as though a couple came for psychotherapy, then left
by a path through the woods. Do not take that path.

There’s another way from here, by water from the pond
into a lower level, a rill that leads somewhere you haven’t been,
through tall grasses, under a stone footbridge.

Let those souls driving on the Interstate keep driving towards something
they believe will make them whole again, revive them
bring them hope like the hope sung by the grasshopper sparrow
whose staccato notes follow you from pond to stream.

A lone cicada tunes up early for August’s insect orchestra.
Keep following the water path from farm to stream,
from stream to  brook, on at last
to the grasslands where the sparrows breed,
where the dragon and damselflies dance above the river.

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“Deep Midwinter After-Party”–demonstrations then and now….and more…

I’m thrilled to announce that I have been  nominated for a Mass Book Award for my debut poetry collection, Baltimore Girls (2017).

Thank you to Finishing Line Press for this honor!

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If you’d like to purchase a signed –and if you like, inscribed –copy of my book, please email me at lviti@wellesley.edu. $13.99 includes the cost of mailing.

Here’s a poem I wrote in late 2016–which seems particularly appropriate at this time in history…

Deep Midwinter After-Party

Empty kitchen. Morning of snow. Small birds
make quick round trips from bush to feeder.
Hardly a sign of the knot of guests who last night
stood by the French doors, beers in hand
or gathered at the table of empty plates,
glasses half full of wine.

Traces of crackers and salsa marinate
with vegetable peels in the compost tub.
We used to be busy with kids and pets,
used to be the ones driving south for Christmas
getting home to pay the babysitter,
wondering if we’ve ever make up lost sleep.

I saw you lean back in the yellow armchair
listening to the thirty year olds
talk about work, their children, the news.
It made me wonder at how time
had moved up so fast on us, how
we ignored it as long as we could.

We’re old, admit it, I tell myself, don’t have time
for twenty to forty years of reforming  the country,
the world—we barely have time
to read the books we want to,  plant the gardens,
see the fifty states,  see refugees welcomed,
resettled,  find a glimmer of a hint of a possibility
of peace on the planet, this  home to our
benighted race, drowning in stuff or in our confusion.

Years ago, thinking about this didn’t faze me.
We would make it better, we would stop a war,
we would bring down a sneak, lying President.
We would do so much better when it was our turn.
Soon, we’ll march,  show what we stand for, bear witness.
I’m not yet ready to call it quits, but getting close.

Let the younger people take the reins. I’m
straggling at the back of the crowd as it pulses down
Independence  Avenue. You might glimpse me there,
like the gray panthers I used saw on the picket lines
–when I was young and fecund—
time biting at their aching heels.

Originally published in Porcupine, Fall 2017, print

If you missed hearing me on “Quintessential Poetry” on Blogtalk Radio, 9/14…

…you can hear me read my recent work and chat with host Dr .Michael Anthony Ingram about the poems and my writing, here.  Among the poems I read are some from Baltimore Girls (“Engineer,” “Salad Days” ) and several newer ones, some  in progress and unpublished.

Quintessential Listening: Poetry –Monday, September 10, 7 PM EDT–please tune in and call in!

Lynne (Quint Sept 10

Friends and poetry aficianados all over the globe, please tune in to Blogtalk Radio: Quintessential Poetry, this Monday, September 10, 7 PM EDT, to hear Dr. Michael Anthony Ingram interview me. I’ll be reading some of my recent poetry, and  taking questions from callers–hopefully some of you! Call in! Around 6:55 PM  EDT this Monday (adjust for your part of the world: 10:55 PM Friday, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)  go to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/…/quintessential-listening-poe…

or call 646-787-1631 to hear –and if you are so inclined, to participate in–the show.

The mission of Quintessential Listening: Poetry is to provide a forum to examine current events and contemporary issues through the power of poetry.download

 

 

“Two Mangy Apple Trees and a Lot of Love” – my opinion essay in the August 26, 2018 Baltimore Sun–

Four years ago, Tree Guy came out to give us an estimate for gypsy moth spraying. As long as you’re here, I said, take a look at these apple trees and tell me what you think.

The two small trees were decades old. The summer cottage’s previous owners who planted them had passed on years ago, and a series of residents and renters neglected the property. …

Read the rest here, in today’s Baltimore Sun online.apples 2018

“Home, at Last,” the poetry of Jackie Oldham

I encourage you to take a look at Jackie’s poem, published on her website, Baltimore Black Woman.

Anyone who has cared for  an aging parent until death will recognize the combination of grief and relief as the adult child reclaims her own life after the parent’s passing.

 

 

 

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Civics 101: The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, and Donald J. Trump–Journalists are NOT the Enemy!

I commend to all of you reading my blog today, the Boston Globe editorial, “Journalists are Not the Enemy.”

I write today in solidarity with American journalists who’ve been under a mounting attack by President Donald Trump,  in his  campaign against all those media outlets–and their writers–who criticize any aspect of his speechifying, social media claims and comments, programs, positions, behavior, or philosophy.

I support the Boston Globe and 300 other newspapers and media outlets of every political stripe, that today, August 16, have joined together to push back against the President’s claim that journalism is nothing more  than “fake news”  and “the enemy of the people.”

Freedom of the press is enshrined in our foundational document, the U.S. Constitution.

That is a fact.

Freedom of the press extends to all media outlets, no matter the editorial affiliation with political party.

That is a fact.

Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

Bill of Rights:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

~LSV

 

 

Walking at Day’s End

 

34e0f0dad2aa4cfb595664163e11d044-1Explain to me how the sea

puts parentheses around the years

since my father held my waist.

We jumped the waves,

and he sang off key to me.

So much time has stacked up

but I walk along at low tide,

the water here dotted with bits of red seaweed,

feel only the water and the sand,

walk over shells of small crabs, or parts of their legs,

till the water laps up again and I see only

foam at the water’s edges.

Show me why the sea is so like

old words on the page,

why I can read and reread a poem

its meaning constant

text embedded deep in my neurons

though life whirls me

from single to married

childless to primagravida

to mother of two

to mother of two grown, off in the world.

 

~Lynne Viti

 

Originally published in Poetry Pacific literary magazine

 

 

 

God’s Thief

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Art by Jeff Blum Copyright 2018

 

God sees me carry the stones from the seashore, smooth
gray rocks I cradle two at a time, pulling them close
to my belly, carrying them like the physical therapist said to.
If it’s against the law to carry these rocks home
to my garden, well then, I’m God’s thief.
God sees me snap off the forsythia branches, try
to speed up spring, make sunlight and  water
push out small green leaves, butter-yellow blooms.
They brighten my Spartan workroom.
God sees me out among the weeds and the damp spring soil
when I should be writing.
God knows the faces of our friends are drawn tight
in those last days before their bodies give out, their souls
still burning hard and bright in our memories.

If only God weren’t so silent, so distant with us,
if only God would pull up a chair, act like
a parent imparting advice, say, When I was your age,
Rome wasn’t built in a day, keep your friends close

I’ve gathered so many rocks now, each time wondering
when God will show God’s self, or give me a sign—
not a miracle exactly, but a perfect rose, then another,
a summer of roses, safe behind a wall of sea-smoothed rocks.

 

From The Glamorganshire Bible. 

To purchase a copy of this, my most recent poetry collection,  at a cost of  $12.99 , postage included, email me at lviti@wellesley.edu

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Mercy High School, Baltimore scholarship funds.

 

Abuse, Neglect, and the Catholic Church in Ireland: Letterfrack and its Lost Boys

This small village at the foot of the Connemara National Park was established by Quakers in 1949, the last year of the Great Hunger. James and Mary Ellis came here from England, as part of post-famine relief programs in Connemara.  They Ellises set up workshops for the denizens of this area, hoping to give people skills by which to earn a decent living. At the main crossroads of the town sits the site of the benighted St. Joseph’s Industrial School, where the ghosts of children seem to hover around the cemetery. The young boys of Letterfrack are commemorated by the poems of the Poetry Trail, carved into wooden plaques affixed to the town’s buildings, to stands along the walk, and to trees.  St. Joseph’s Industrial School, in operation from 1887-1974, was a site where hundreds if not thousands of Irish boys suffered harsh conditions, beaten and in some cases, sexually abused by the their teachers and wardens, the Irish Christian Brothers.

The building that warehoused these boys has been repurposed as a school for teenagers who have little interest in an academic secondary education, desiring instead to become skilled woodworkers. We wander through the National Centre of Excellence for Furniture Design and Wood Technology, on a quiet morning after the end of term. Finely hewn chairs, bookshelves, intricate coffee tables, side tables, chess boards and storage boxes sit ready for an exhibition and auction next week.

Nearby, atop a woods of trees with moss covered trunks, winding vines, and wild garlic, sits the small graveyard. Whether from disease–pneumonia, tuberculosis, whopping cough, diphtheria, rheumatic fever–or from malnourishment, or from severe beatings and exposure–the deaths of these young boys marked this ground. Exhaustive reports by the Irish national government relying on interviews, document analysis and forensic evidence, legal proceedings, the dismantling and closure of the old school, formal apologies issued by the Catholic Church and the Irish government under whose watch these things occurred–all these have been intended to achieve truth and reconciliation.

But it is the poets and artists who come closest to the truth about the suffering and loss of these children. Walking the Letterfrack Poetry Trail is more than a literary exercise–and reading the poems aloud in turn, as we did today, makes the past immediate. The heart-shaped grave markers atop old gravestones recite boys’ names, their birth and death date, their age on the day they passed from this life. Age 9, age 11, age 13. Born 1912, 1915, died 1922, 1925.

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The poets record the tiniest, most poignant details: the boy who when they knew “there were in for it,” cried Mammy, Mammy, Mammy” in a low murmur like a prayer. The boy who carried a cardboard suitcase when he came up from Dublin after getting in trouble with the law, perhaps for stealing a bicycle. The dead child whose comrades mourned his broken back and his empty hands.

We walked the poetry trail, swatting away persistent Connemara midges and taking turns reading the poems aloud. The cloud cover gave way in the late afternoon to sun. We wandered into the tables outside the Park’s tearoom, where we sipped tea and talked about Irish poets who lately had died in old age. We talked about our host’s son, a mortgage broker Chicago, and about mackerel fishing in Clifden, nearby. We did not speak about the graves, or even of the poems on wooden plaques that dot the poetry trail. This was the fourth day in a row that the sun was shining brightly in Connemara, and we liked to think we’d brought the fine weather with us from Northern America.

As we neared St Joseph’s Church on our way back down the road, Joe pointed out one last poem—not part of the poetry trail collection per se, but nonetheless an important testimony: “Graveyard,” by the late Irish poet Richard Murphy, who died last January after a long and illustrious career. Murphy’s words, inscribed in white painted script on a black background, call to mind chalk on a school blackboard, what in other contexts would be a benign symbol of the classrooms in past days.

Graveyard- Richard Murphy Poetry trail

Murphy’s words are chilling, and they’ve stuck with me long after we have moved on from Letterfrack up the coast to Achill Island, then double back to Louisburgh, where the good sunny weather of the past ten days turns, and we hear the high wind and steady rain rattling the cottage windows.  Safe and dry in our cottage, we watch the last of the peat fire burn into embers, and call it a night.

Letterfrack Industrial School

Bog-brown glens, mica schist rocks, waterfalls
Gulching down screes, a rain-logged mountain slope
With scrawny pine trees twisted by mad gales,
They see from my ball-yard, and abandon hope.

Wild boys my workshops chasten and subdue
Learn here the force of craft. Few can escape
My rack of metal, wood, thread, hide: my screw
Of brotherhood: the penny stitched in a strap.

Podded in varnished pews, stunted in beds
Of cruciform iron, they bruise with sad, hurt shame
Orphans with felons, bastards at loggerheads
With waifs, branded for life by a bad name.

One, almost hanged in my boot-room, has run free
Dressed as a girl, saved by a thieving gipsy.

 ~Richard Murphy

 

 

The Glamorganshire Bible–My new poetry collection– is released!

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The collection is available from me–at a slightly reduced cost of $11.99 plus first class postage. Profits from books purchased from me directly will go to scholarship funds at Mercy High School, Baltimore, my beloved alma mater.

Email me at lviti@wellesley.edu for details. Or, order from amazon.com barnesandnoble.com, or from the publisher, Finishing Line Press.

I’ll be reading from this collection and new poems as well, at the Wellfleet Public Library, June 18, 7 PM. The event is free and open to the public.

 

 

1964: “Nickel Dreams”

As I write this I’m en route to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station by a train moving south along the Eastern coast. Many years ago, while still in high school, I traveled north to Philly, and in this poem from my 2017 collection, Baltimore Girls (Finishing Line Press) , I recall my solo first train journey  to visit my friend Marcus W. “Mike” Moore, at Haverford College on the Main Line.

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 –
not as high as I expected.

The blackened piles of snow
all melted away, roof rakes,
ergonomic shovels, the chemicals
we strewed on sidewalk and porches.
Mere memories of winter.

The sun strains to appear.
It warms the day but I can hardly
see my shadow, perhaps only  faint
suggestions of a shadow, a darkening,
barely perceptible.

On a day like this, full of spring’s promise,
I cut an armful of jonquils from my mother’s garden
wrapped them in newspaper, a cone
around the butter yellow blooms
so fragile, their stems easily snapped or bent.

Go to 30th Street Station, Mike said, for the transfer
But watch out if you’re there right at six, when
the dogs are let off their leashes,
dogs in gray flannel suits, carrying
smart leather briefcases. I understood.
He loved to quote Dylan: I don’t want to be
A singer in the rat race choir.

As I rose near my stop on the Paoli local
an old man glanced at my flowers.
I withdrew one and handed it to him,
without a word, hopped off at Haverford.
Mike stood on the platform, his long scarf
artfully draped around his neck,
tweed sport coat festooned
with buttons of Lenin, Freedom Now, Stokely
Carmichael. We walked through the campus,
his arm around my shoulder.

This will be my life, I thought.
His roommates were out. We
skipped dinner, built a fire. We
Talked about the war, about Yeats.
When it was late and
we were so hungry we couldn’t stand it
we strolled to the Blue Comet
for the cheeseburgers—I can remember
even now how good they tasted.

We took the back way to the women’s college
—I‘d set up camp in the guest lounge.
Mike kissed my cheek, handed me a nickel
the Paoli local had flattened into an oval,
Washington’s head all distorted.
I carried it  around for years,
that talisman of my life to come.

 

 

 

Harp Music

The famous doctor said you haven’t really lived
till you get a death threat from a guy with a cell phone
just over the state line, someone who maybe read about my  work,

found it sinful, against his principles,shaking the foundations of
whatever it is he called his religion or ideology. But I felt
much better when the cops paid him a visit, and he faded away.

With you, it was the phone calls from a harpist, slight and pale,
ebony-haired, tearful.She looked at you across the wide desk
covered with case files, foolscap pads, ball point pens.

She told you her father had died and her husband had left, wanted
nothing more to do with her. You counseled her to mediate.

When she got home, she phoned the office for hours, starting at midnight,
careening along into dawn. Twenty-five messages on the tape
each more high-pitched and insistent, her voice growing hoarser each time

letting you know just what miseries she’d  visit on you. And yes, she knew
you had children, and she had them, too, in her sights.

A couple drinks later, you stood behind home plate at your son’s little league game,
trying to forget about it, wondering what she thought when the police
hauled her away to the cold hospital room.

You told someone the story, then told someone else, hoping it would amuse.
The police said not to worry. Her psychiatrist said it’s just disordered thinking,

But she wouldn’t give  blood samples, take meds, insisted
the judge come to the hospital, where she  sat, docile, polite,
hands folded, refusing treatment.

Wait another ten years, your friend said, pointing to the ball her son knocked
out of the park into the woods. You’ll laugh about it, you’ll see.

Months, perhaps years later you chanced to see her on stage with her instrument,stroking the harp so gently, pulling sweet tones from the strings,
steel core with wire wrap.

You glanced down at the program, ran your thumbnail under her name,
Wondered that she found her way back from four point restraints,
soft, padded, leaving no marks.

She’s better now, you thought, settling back in your seat,
Closing your eyes, fighting hard to let the music engulf you.

Originally published in The Song Is…

 

It’s National Poetry Month–go hear some live poetry!

I’ll be reading at  these venues, from my new poetry collection, The Glamorganshire Bible, as well as some brand new poems–hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, April 4, 7 PM, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Sunday, April 8, 2 PM, Ferguson Public Library, Stamford, Connecticut -central  

Monday, April 9, 7 PM, Westwood Public Library, Westwood, Massachusetts -main library

Thanks to the “last 14” (2 ordered 2 books each)and all who pre-ordered GlamBible!

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Books will ship on May 18!  If you live near me or will be on Cape Cod  between June 20 and August 31, be in touch–I’d love to sign your book! Reading at Wellfleet Public Library on Wednesday, July 18, 8 PM.

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Making Love to You Was Like Peeling

download-1This poem was published in my 1st  collection, Baltimore Girls.

Ok, so it’s a love/sex poem.

But the real drama, sex , drama and scandal, comes in my forthcoming book, The Glamorganshire Bible. It’s not so much about the bible from Wales and more about the scandals a young woman of twenty  endured, living in Cumberland Maryland in the early 20th century,  and finding herself pregnant (in 1911) and unmarried.

To pre-order–by March 23– go to Finishing Line Press, here.

 

Making Love to You Was Like Peeling

 

Making love to you was like peeling

An onion. I teared up, holding the knife’s edge

Against paper-thin layers, pulled them

Away, one by one by one. I knew I must

Get to the tender parts of you, underneath.

 

Making love to you was like scraping

The hairy root vegetables, bright carrots,

The pale parsnips, the knife blade flat

Against the tubers- I needed strong hands

To hold you, to interlace my fingers with yours

To show you how desperate I was.

 

At night, after sex, I should have been exhausted

But I heard you turn on the shower, call

To me to join you. Afterward, I enfolded you in

A rose-colored towel big enough for two.

It was  like rinsing  tender lettuces in the sink,

Wrapping them in cloth to dry.

 

If you like this, you’ll LOVE the poem in The Glamorganshire Bible. Please pre-order! Thanks,

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12 more days to pre-order–here’s today’s offering, my short-short story, “Black Suede Stilettos”

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            I was twenty-seven, divorced, and with no boyfriend in sight. After a painful breakup, I started jogging and swore off sweets and alcohol. I lost so much weight that I needed size 4 clothes. And I wanted new shoes, like ones I’d seen in a French film,   with four –inch stiletto heels and thin, elegant ankle straps. I found them, in the least likely place: Paul’s Cancellation, a hole-in-the-wall in a rundown mall. I was home visiting my parents that Thanksgiving, and avoiding the leftover turkey and pumpkin pie.  The shoes were on sale, though still well beyond my budget.

            I spied them from a distance, on the sale rack next to cordovan loafers and lime-green flats.  They beckoned to me from across the long, narrow shop. Between me and the black suede stilettos a knot of women tried on shoes, bending over to pull on knee-high boots, or turning this way and that before banged-up mirrors to critique their ankles and calves. Open boxes of shoes lay on the floor surrounding customers, and Paul rushed around with towers of shoes balanced in each hand. He craned their necks this way and that, sweeping the small room with a look of consternation as he tried to remember who had requested which shoe in which size nine.

            I made my way to the black suede stilettos, carefully stepping over shoeboxes and handbags littering the carpet. “Sorry. Excuse me,” I said repeatedly, until I reached the clearance rack. I scanned the shoes up and down for the sizes, but saw no labels or signs. Just my luck, I thought. The toes of the black suede stilettos were pointing right at me now, as if to say, “Too bad your feet aren’t smaller, girlfriend.”

            I reached out and petted the shoe from vamp to toe. My fingers made a small depression in the suede. I fingered the small brass buckle on the narrow strap. “Nice shoes,” a woman standing next to me said. “What size are they?” I turned the shoe on its side and looked for numbers, but found nothing, then I turned the shoe over, and saw the number 39—European size for eight. My heart leaped. “My size,” I said.  When I looked up, the woman had disappeared.

            I didn’t wait to find a vacant chair to sink into, but slipped off my clogs. I pulled off my socks and leaned up against a nearby pillar.  I slipped on one shoe, then the other, then bent down to buckle the ankle straps. Walking gingerly in the four-inch heels, I maneuvered over to one of the small mirrors. I pulled up the legs of my corduroy pants and glanced at my feet.  I remembered how once after college, a boyfriend had said, “Nice gams,” when I showed up at his apartment wearing green ribbed tights and a short plaid skirt. I bought the shoes.

            They were fabulous. They were also trouble. They attracted men, but the wrong men: A married man who wouldn’t leave me alone at a dinner party. A handsome Italian poet at a cocktail party of literary scholars. He talked with me about Austen and Eliot and invited me to spend the night with him. A wild-eyed actor with disheveled hair. A talented amateur photographer who invited me to his studio, where we drank champagne and he took rolls and rolls of film of me in the black stilettos.

            I wore the shoes through my thirties. They stayed pristine, because I only took them out of their box on special occasions. I aged, they stayed young, as though they had just flown back from a weekend in Paris. After I was married and had children, the stilettos languished in their original box in my closet. One rainy Saturday, I deposited them at the Goodwill van at the Home Depot parking lot. I bought pumps with patent leather toes and gold bands on the chunky one-inch heels– classy shoes for a woman of a certain age. Which is to say, boring, almost sensible shoes.

            The stilettos were hard to walk in, up stairs, on city streets, over grates on New York sidewalks. They were impossible to dance in.  After I bade them goodbye, I never missed the balancing act or the aching  back and feet the morning after.. What I missed—and still do—was that delicious moment of anticipation each time I slipped them on, when I bent to caress and fasten the straps, wondering what excitement lay ahead in the glistening, magical night.

To Pre-Order The Glamorganshire Bible, go to Finishing Line Press here.

I f you’re ordering by credit cad, enter through the Pay Pal portal. The FL Press uses Paypal to process credit cards.

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Heather Corbally Bryant (L). and me (R) at AWP in Tampa, at the Finishing Line Booth.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs –meeting with our publisher

To order my new poetry collection, The Glamorganshire Bible, from Finishing Line, go to https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/the-glamorganshire-bible-by-lynne-viti/

To pay by major credit card, check Paypal and that will take you to the VISA and MasterCard portals, as Finishing Line Press uses Paypal to process credit card orders.

 

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Heather Corbally Bryant (L). and me (R) at AWP in Tampa, at the Finishing Line Booth.

Peaches

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   We were  good Catholic girls, never in trouble for anything more than doing a halfhearted job of washing the dinner dishes or taking out the trash cans for the Monday morning pickup. It was late August, and Suzanne, Maria and I were about to start our junior year at St. Mary’s. I had passed my driver’s test in June. Suze could drive too, but on this particular night, her parents had revoked her driving privileges for two more weeks for some minor infraction. Her father had been a military man, and he liked to run his family like it was the Army . School was starting in eleven days. I was determined to make the most of the summer’s end. I left my family’s station wagon parked in front of Suze’s house on Northwood Drive, wedging it between a couple of her neighbor’s cars.  Suze grabbed her house key, called loudly to her mother who was ironing in the basement.

“Be back later, Ma,”

We walked out her kitchen door really fast, past the trash cans at the end of the cement walk, out the gate and down the alley route to Maria’s.

             Mrs. Selig opened the door. Grey haired, stern, and a little hard of hearing, she never wore makeup. I guess she always made me feel a little on edge. My manners weren’t good enough for her. Today, she wore an apron spattered with shards of red and yellow fruit. The smell was sweet and fragrant, almost overpowering, though.  But for a change, Mrs. Selig seemed happy to see us.

           She even smiled a little as she poked her head into the dining room and said brightly, “I hope you like peaches, girls.  Come on in—Maria and I are just getting them ready for freezing.”

            In the small kitchen ripe, fragrant red-flecked golden peaches were piled up on the counter, the table, in plastic containers and china bowls, and on the floor in a half bushel basket. Maria was in shorts and a sleeveless blouse, her dirty blond hair pulled back into a ponytail that she’d pinned under so it looked like some kind of French hairdo but only half done up. For a few minutes we just stood there and watched her slice peaches for the freezer and put them into a square plastic container. A long, flat peach cake still in the pan cooled on a rack on the Formica table next to four or five large crockery bowls of the fruit. Mrs. Selig peeled fruit after fruit. After she skinned each one, she wiped her hands on her apron.

            “I’ll finish up,” Maria said to her mother. She flashed and me a look, as if to say, I wish she would just leave. “Meg and Suze can help.”

            Mrs. Selig managed to sound pleased and annoyed at the same time. She took off her apron and folded it carefully over the back of a chair. She rinsed her hands under the faucet and told Maria, “Just be sure you wipe off all those counters, hon, so I don’t feel anything sticky when I come in later on to make your father’s lunch for tomorrow.” She strode off towards the living room and we heard her switch on the tv.

                        “Did you bring the money?” Maria asked me.

                        “Right here,” I said. I patted the front pocket of my shorts.

                        “How much?”

                        “Fifty,” I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out two twenties and a ten, and laying them on the table next to the peach cake.  “Enough for all of us and more.”

                        “More is good,” said Suze. “We can always sell what we don’t want.”

                        “You want to walk down there or what?” Maria asked Suze and me.

                        “Let’s drive,” Suze said.

                        “No way.”  I was always so paranoid about the car. “If anything ever happened to my dad’s car—that neighborhood –“

                        “So what are we gonna do, take the bus?” Suze asked. It was pretty obvious how stupid that idea was.

                        “Very funny, Miss Schmitter,” I said.

                         “Let’s call Bill Nash and make him take us,” said Maria.

                        “Right, sure, Mr. College Boy is gonna drive us down to Thirty-Third Street,” I said. “Like in what, his mother’s Dodge Dart with the push buttons?”

                        “Who cares? He’s cute,” Maria said. “Let’s call him.”

                        “Let’s walk,” said Suze, “Bill’s so boring.”

                        “You just hate him because he never asked you out,” I said. “Not that your mom would let you go out with a guy in a car.” He’d never asked me out either, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from giving Suze a hard time. She shot me a pissed off kind of look, but she didn’t say anything, probably because she knew I was right.

                        “How about we get your car, you drive us, you drop Maria and me off at Thirty-Third Street and you wait in the car for us?”  Suze looked straight at me. “No big deal, Meggy. It would take about ten minutes.”

                        I hesitated. It was only seven, and it would be light for a while yet. Where we were headed wasn’t such a great neighborhood, especially after dark, but we had plenty of time to get down and back. And the last thing in the world I wanted to do was call Bill Nash for a ride anywhere. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him.  I’d had a thing for him since the beginning of tenth grade, when I saw him play a small part in a Calvert Hall play. He was the guy constantly stumbling in drunk and falling down in “You Can’t Take It With You.” The play was stupid and I didn’t remember a thing except this tall boy with rosy cheeks and a shock of dark brown hair, crashing to the floor and causing waves of laughter from the audience, especially the girls. Since then I’d heard that he and his friends at St. Matthews had won a couple CYO drama contests, only for serious stuff. Now he was in college, and I wondered if he had a girlfriend. Probably some older girl—no way he’d be interested in a high school junior.

                        “Are we going or not?”  Suze asked. “I need a smoke. Now.”  Maria’s parents didn’t allow smoking in the house—at least not for kids. It was fine for them to smoke, of course.” Let’s get out of here,” Suze whined.

                        “Fine. I’ll drive,” I said.   The fan in Maria’s kitchen was making a loud hum. It would be good to have some fun for a change. The whole summer had been nothing but boring—working at my father’s store, mowing the lawn, driving around at night with my girlfriends wishing we had someplace to go—a party, maybe to D.C. where it was legal to drink if you were eighteen, maybe hang out with some older guys. But all we had so far was the movies and if we were lucky, someone with a house on the shore invited us down overnight. Once Wanda Barber had us down to a cookout at her family’s summer place on the Severn, but we only put up with her because at school she kept trying to sit at our lunch table. Eventually, we just caved in and Wanda started thinking she was one of us. Needless to say, she wasn’t.

                        “I have to ask if I can go out tonight,” Maria said. She crossed her fingers and held them up.  Suze tapped her foot loudly and sighed as Maria wiped her hands, threw the towel down onto the kitchen table, and walked into the living room.

                        “Let’s wait on the back steps,” Suze said. “I bet her mom says no way.” She pulled her cigarette pack out of her shorts pocket and tapped one out. “You want one?” She opened the door for me very quietly and we sat down on the concrete stoop.

                        I wasn’t a regular smoker but sometimes it just felt right to have one.   Suze pulled out a silver lighter, lit my cigarette and then hers.  She inhaled and started blowing smoke rings. Fully aware that I’d not yet mastered that skill, I took a long menthol-soaked drag and just blew it out slowly.

                        “Nice lighter,” I said. “Where’s it from?”

                        “I copped it from my sister,” Suze said. Her sister Catherine was in college. She had a summer job waitressing in Rehoboth and had left most of her good stuff at home in the room they shared. “I have to put it back before she gets home next week.”

                        “Don’t lose it or she’ll kill you,” I said. Catherine was a notorious bitch, and very particular about her possessions, especially the expensive gifts she got from boyfriends, of which she had many.

                        “Fat chance,” Suze answered.  “I have the goods on her. She and her friends had a party when my parents went away that weekend and I helped her clean up—so now I can use all her stuff and she can’t stop me.”

                        Just then, Maria practically ran out her back door. She grabbed us by our wrists and pulled us down the narrow concrete walk through the back gate. Letting go of us for a moment, she swung the metal gate back hard behind her to close it tight. “She is so damned annoying,” she said, looking back over her shoulder. She’d unpinned her hair and it was loose now, falling down past her shoulders. Her tanned face was still wet from when she’d just washed it.

                    “Get a move on, you two!” she laughed, and she bumped her hip lightly, first against me, then against Suze. “I made parole, but the Queen says I have to be home by ten-thirty.”

                        “Poor kid,” I said. “My curfew’s midnight.”

                        We started singing together as we walked three abreast down the alley: “Nowhere to run, baby, nowhere to hide. Got nowhere to run, baby…I know you’re no good for me…”  The singing ended abruptly as we dissolved into laughter, about, it seemed, nothing. Perspiration ran down my face and I could feel it drip right down into the front of my sleeveless top. My hair, which I had worked so hard at straightening that afternoon, was frizzing up. I pulled it back as flat as I could under my headband, trying to look as cool as I thought Maria did.

                        We cut through the end of the alleyway and onto Northwood Drive. As we walked, we saw kids everywhere, it seemed—little kids out with empty screw-top jars, holes carefully poked into the metal tops. They were running over front lawns, squealing and catching lightning bugs. Some girls were lining up at the curb by the white Good Humor truck, and the Good Humor man, a short, dark guy dressed all in whites with his change-maker at his belt, was pulling popsicles and rockets from the freezer of the truck, the dry ice making smoky looking stuff curl up, right out of the little open door at the back.

                        “Want a popsicle?”  Suze said. “I might.”

                        “Get out, we have to go,” I said. “The guy told me he’d only be there till eight, and he might not stay that late.”

                        The guy was called Steve. A girl who lived down my block, Doris,, had told me about him. I used to ride bikes and play hopscotch with Doris when we were back in grade school, but now she went to the Vo-Tech and ran with a tougher crowd. At the bus stop, though, we would talk about boys, and makeup. She was going to be a beautician, and she always carried this weird shiny plastic case with all her supplies like curlers, end papers for perms, special equipment that hairdressers used. For several weeks while we waited for the bus, we talked about where it was easy to buy beer, how to get fake i.d.s, and where to find some diet pills and grass. She knew a lot about all this, and I knew practically nothing, but I figured I could get some good leads from her. One day she wrote down Steve’s phone number down for me on a scrap of paper torn from the top of a magazine–just his first name and a number. Then she gave me some advice.

                      “This is where you want to go if you want grass,” she whispered to me one afternoon as we both sat waiting for the bus to take us to work. “Down near the Waverly Theatre is where he hangs out. He’s not a sleaze, he won’t rat you out, and he’s nice. And sort of cute, for an older guy.”

                       Her express bus  pulled up just then as she handed me the piece of paper, filled with her fat round handwriting, all its i’s dotted with circles. She stepped up to the token box, dropped in her fifteen cents, and looked back at me over her shoulder for a split second.  Scaggy-looking, I had thought—she had  white-blond  teased hair, white lipstick, and too much black eyeliner. But on her, it looked cool. She was tall and thin and knew how to carry it off. She knew that everyone else knew it, too.

             “Hey, daydreamer, I have dibs on the death seat,” Suze was saying. She opened the passenger door of my car and climbed in.

              “Fine with me, age before beauty,” Maria said as she slid into the back seat. “Thirty-third and Greenmount, driver,” she said, giggling.

               “Are we sure we want to do this?” I asked.

                “Are you turning chicken on us?”  Suze said.

                “No way,” I said, as I turned the key and pulled out onto the street.  Suze switched on the radio and started fooling with the dial.

                The street was quiet when we arrived on the block where Steve had said to meet him. I had called him from a payphone earlier that day. “Bring cash, fifty bucks minimum,” he said when I phoned him. “You take my word on it. You don’t get to try the stuff first,” he told me. “And anyone asks, you don’t know me.”

                “See if you can find number 505,” I asked Suze. She rolled down her window and peered out.

                “This is the six hundred block. One more block west. You’re not getting weirded out, are you?”

                I maneuvered the station wagon into a parking place, not a legal one, near a fire hydrant. “Should we get out and wait for this guy, or stay in the car?” Maria asked.

                “Don’t be stupid. We stay here. This isn’t the best place to be, even in daylight,” Suze said.

                “Looks fine to me,” Maria said.

                “You are so damned naïve,” I said. “You two stay here. Let me check to see if this guy’s around.”

                The front door of one of the houses flipped open fast, and out walked a guy, a lot older than us but not as old as our parents. I’d say he was maybe thirty. He had on jeans and a pocket t- shirt, really dark blue, with a pack of cigarettes in the pocket. Winstons, I think, or Marlboros, a red-and-white package.

                “You Meg?” he called down to me from the doorway. He had short dirty blond hair and blue eyes, and very strange little teeth,  pointy at the ends.

                “That’s me.”

                “You girls want to come in for a sec?” he asked.

                I turned to Suze and Maria. Maria had a weird expression on her face, giving me a look as if to say, No way.

                “Well,” I hesitated.

                “Come on up. I need a few minutes to get it together for you is all.”

                He seemed sincere enough, but I didn’t know if we should go in. I ticked off the pluses and minuses: bad neighborhood; a guy we didn’t really know; no information about who was in the apartment already. Plus, we were obviously about to engage in a criminal activity – buying drugs. “No, thanks,” I said, smiling weakly. “We’ll just wait here.”

                “Have it your way, babe,” he said, and disappeared into the apartment.

                “Hey, Meg, maybe we should go and buy some beer,” Suze said. She sounded nervous.

                “Yeah, right,” I said. “At your age, sure. Good luck.”

                “No, really, “ Suze was annoyed. She waved a card she had pulled out of her back pocket. It was a Delaware driver’s license. “I have I.D.”

                This was something new. “From where?”

                “Get out,” said Maria. “ What does it say?”

                “Mary Ellen Steele, 4015 Walnut Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware,” Suze read. “One of my sister’s many fakes.”

                “Suze, we don’t need beer,” Maria said. “What we came for is better. Anyway, we don’t need them both, that’s for sure.”

                “Stay put, Suze,” I said. “ It’s my car.  Wait right here.” I fixed my eyes on Steve’s front door.

                “Hey! Get up here, Meg!” Steve was back at the screen door of his place, calling down to me. I could barely hear what he was saying.

     “You coming up to do this or not? Who else is coming with you?” He smiled. I noticed for the first time that he had a dark green tattoo, maybe a gargoyle, on his forearm. His jeans were really tight, and kind of dirty, with thin lines of grime running horizontally across his thighs.

                  I glanced over at Suze and Maria. “Who’s going?” Neither of them said a thing. Suze jerked her chin up and over towards the porch where Steve was standing.

                  “OK,” I said, loud enough for him to hear me. “Lock all the doors,” I said. “No. You sit in the driver’s seat, Suze.  Keep the keys in the ignition.”  Suze got out of the car on the curb side, locked the door, then walked around to the driver’s side and slid in behind the wheel. She leaned over and rolled down the front passenger window, and I tossed in the keys.  “Be right back,” I said.

            I walked fast up the steps to the porch and stopped a couple of feet away from the front door. Steve had just lit a cigarette, and taking a long drag on it, he said quietly, ”How much money you girls bring?”

               “Fifty,” I said.

                “Lemme see it,” he said in a low voice.

                “Where’s the stuff?” I asked.

                 “Don’t you worry about that, lemme see the money,” he replied. He started to move towards me a bit, letting the screen door smack shut behind him. From the inside of the house I could hear a radio playing music, country music.

                 “Okay.” I started to reach into my pocket. “Wait a second, Steve—-” I started to say.

                   “I ain’t Steve,” the man said quietly. “Come here now and give me that money.”

                   My heart began to beat faster now.” You’re not Steve?” I said. I felt my face flush. “Who are you, then?”

                    “Just give me the money, darlin’,” he said. “And get the hell out of here. Fast.”

                     My hand stayed jammed in my pocket, and I froze. He reached over and grabbed my elbow with one hand, squeezing it hard, while the other hand seemed to go into his back pocket. My heart started thumping faster, the noise rising in my throat first, and then in my head.

                I jerked my elbow away, and surprisingly, he was so unsteady on his feet that I easily stepped backwards a few steps and started for the steps, while he stood there seeming a bit dazed. “Get up here!” he said in a flat voice, as I felt my foot touch the top step and I tried to propel myself down. “I got what you came for.”  He started down the steps after me. I nearly tripped across the sidewalk, pounded on the passenger door window, until Suze leaned over and pulled up the door lock.

              “Drive!” I screamed, as I got into the car. “Drive! He’s coming! Drive, you idiot!”

               Suze started the engine and pulled out onto the street, tires squealing.  We rode in silence—no radio, no talking, my heart still pounding.  I wound down the window halfway and heard that strange whooshing sound as we quickly rode past parked cars, one after another.

                 “You okay, Meg?” said Maria quietly, from the back seat.

                 “Yeah, I guess,” I said. And then I thought of something. “No, actually, I’m not.”

                   “What happened, he try something?”  Suze asked.

                   “I don’t know what was going on. He didn’t have the stuff, I don’t think. God, he was disgusting—“

                    Maria lit a Newport, took a drag and handed it to me. “Here, you need this,” she said.

                    “Thanks,” I sucked in the mentholated smoke and exhaled slowly. “Maybe Doris Kozak set the whole thing up, that scag.”

                      “You should be more—we should be more careful,” Maria said. “If my mother knew I was down here—“

                      “Let’s leave your mother out of this,” I said.

                      “You really think she might have?” Suze said. “You’re okay, aren’t you? That guy was a jerk. How old you think he was, Meggy?”

                      “Ancient. Maybe  thirty?”

                      We began to giggle and then we couldn’t stop. “Put on the radio,” I said, when we finally got quiet. Let’s go back to someone’s house and just watch tv.” Neither of them said a word. We drove on, past the stadium and onto the boulevard heading north.

                      A few blocks away from her house, Suze said, “I’d better pull over and let you take the wheel. My father will ground me for another month if he catches me driving.”

                       “We could drive by Bill Nash’s house,” Maria said. “His mother works nights.”

                        “What was that guy trying to do, anyway? Suze asked.

                        “I don’t know, take our money, I guess,” I said morosely. “Maybe something worse. Forget it, Suze. I don’t want to talk about it. Maria’s right, let’s go by Bill’s house.”

                         Suze parked the car as near to Bill’s house as she could, considering the cars were bumper to bumper all along his block. We rang the doorbell. Bill appeared, tall and smiling, wearing cut-off jeans and a t-shirt from his old high school. “Ladies,” he said, as though he’d been expecting us. “Come in. Nothing like company on a hot, humid  night in the city. Mi casa es su casa, as they say. Please join me.”

                  He led us through the house, empty of adults and siblings, and out to his back stoop. We sat there for a couple hours drinking beer, smoking Marlboros, and listening to the Top Forty hits on the kitchen radio, which sat in the window facing out towards the fenced-in back yards. Suze and Maria sat on the lowest step, tilting back  the cans of Bud into their mouths and looking up at the darkening sky. Clutching their jars of lightning bugs, the last of the children were called in when the streetlights switched on. Bill and I started to sing along to the radio, and he slipped his arm around my shoulder. The stars came out, and the cicadas began their rising song.

                                                                  –Lynne Viti

Note from Lynne:

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed this short story.

Now, please  please pre-order my poetry collection–support poetry and support Mercy High, Baltimore scholarship and development funds. I’ll donate proceeds from my author’s copies to Mercy The link to order is here–go through the Paypal link to get to portal for major credit cards, or call the press and leave a message–they’ll call you back and you can use a credit card directly. Pre-orders end on March 23.  Thanks!

Here’s the link to order The Glamorganshire Bible!

“Our Mothers: The Poetry of Lynne Viti & Heather Bryant” in 4th & Sycamore lit mag, today!

Two poets imagine their mothers meeting in the “Fifties and ‘Sixties, even though they never did!

 

https://fourthandsycamore.com/2018/02/28/our-mothers-two-poems-by-lynne-viti-and-heather-corbally-bryant/

Leftovers

The gray cat keeps watch by the window, staring at a sunless day.

Her head turns, ears on alert, when two juncos alight on the deck.

The Christmas tree’s colored lights garish in the morning.

Half-drunk bottles of cabernet litter the kitchen counter,

red carnations in the table settings have gone limp.

Please don’t ask about the children, no longer children, now men,

back at their own digs. We’ve haven’t heard from them

since they packed up their gifts and the leftovers in plastic tubs.

They could be sleeping all, day, or filling out job applications,

or heaving weights at the gym. Might be watching You Tube,

how to cook favorite foods of The Wire. Any hope

of grandchildren on the horizon is misguided, don’t ask about that, either.

Extreme climate: eight degrees at eight a.m. The President

won’t stop tweeting. I watch the juncos, brave against the cold.

~Lynne Viti

 

Originally published in the South Florida Poetry Journal, January 2018 issue

 

You can pre-order my new poetry collection , The Glamorganshire Bible, from Finishing Line Press by March 23! $13.99.  Proceeds from author’s copies in lieu of royalties go to Mercy High School, Baltimore, MD, for scholarship and development funds.

*Viti 3 BandW version 1 (1)

 

 

 

Pear Candle, Half-Spent

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Wax like burnt sugar

It’s a round pregnant belly with

white mold-like coating,

a scoop dug out of

the heavy  bottom,

a thread of black umbilical cord

protruding—

it  sits on a

saucer of Portuguese crockery.

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Punting, Origami Poems Project, January 2018. Download the chapbook and assemble it!

Leukapheresis

I wrote this last winter, when our dear friend was undergoing yet another cancer treatment. He had done well after a stem cell transplant procedure, but a year later the cancer returned. The poem was my way of expressing my helplessness, and the waiting to hear news of how he was faring with this treatment, which I knew very little about until I did some research into it.

 

Leukapheresis

                                           For DF

There’s a dispute in your blood,

Red cells against the white.

You’re in no shape to talk.

We’re playing your music,

it fills the living room.

You’re having another procedure—

it spills out unpronounceable names.

They’re taking the white from your blood.

Let them.

Leucocytes, they’re taking you into custody,

so the capillaries can do their job, submit

to collection, centrifugation, spinning.

The basophils (Greek, basis, philein, to love),

the polymorphonuclear leukocytes,

those feisty granular immune cells,

the eosinophils, who so love eosins, the acid dyes,

that they embrace their stain, must be silent.

The rest of us, here at home this February day

do what we can. We wait,

wait, from Old French, guaiter,

wait and watch over.

~Lynne Viti

Originally published in Punting, Origami Poems Project,  Copyright 2018

 

 

In Your Absence I Am Wearing Your Hat

And a pair of old shorts I found

in your closet, threads dangling from

the disintegrating khaki fabric.

I sleep on my back at night, careful not

to disturb the pillow on your side of the bed.

In the morning I’m unpracticed at making coffee,

Stumbling through the task, forgetting the filter,

or remembering the filter, forgetting the filter basket.

Your hat, the one you bought for hiking hills in Sicily,

fits me perfectly. I look like

an Australian crocodile wrassler,

or maybe the Marlboro man, though

your hat has a chin strap and a toggle.

Vents above the brim let in the sweet morning air.

Your hat smells like you, the sweatband

Exudes the scent of your soap and your shaving cream.

When you come back I’ll happily surrender the hat,

Strands of my hair stuck fast to its woven fibers.

 

–Lynne Viti

originally published  in January 2017, in Punting, Origami Poems Project

 

 

The Summer People in Winter

Near Uncle Tim’s bridge stands
a dwarf tree with twisted branches, tiny
White blossoms just about to fall—
White sand, shells of horseshoe crabs, not as many
As in years past. Matted salt hay, soft underfoot.
Across the marsh, the old fish cannery-turned-
Yoga studio next to the fish shack, the parking lot empty,
Freshly paved with crushed oyster shells,
White, pristine, waiting for the summer people.

In winter they stay in their houses, reading the paper.
Some sit at the piano, pluck out a few tunes.
Others write letters to the editor, refusing to use
email, preferring paper, envelope, self-adhesive stamps.
They walk their letters to the mailbox,
Wait for the metal clank as their missives disappear
Into the blue container. Pickup, 4 PM.

The summer people in winter wear
Their good coats to the opera. They don
Their special sports gear for the hockey arena.
They go to work early, they’re the last to leave the office.
They stand for O Say Can You See and O Canada.
They lug their groceries in reusable bags. They
Watch the calendar, dreaming of the marsh,
The kettle ponds’ clear water, the warm waves
Late August afternoons, on the bay beach,
White sand near the rock jetty, a fat orange sun
Slow dancing towards the horizon.

~Lynne Viti

Originally published  as a Poem of the Moment, on the Mass. Poetry website, December 2017, http://www.masspoetry.org/poemofthemoment7/

Ice Melt, Cat Litter, and Crampons —No Uggs

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Exactly one week ago, our town on the south shore of Boston saw over a foot of snow. Up and down our suburban road, snowblowers hummed and neighbors commiserated with each other, bundled up in parkas and wearing their perennial L.L. Bean boots.  Flights all over the east coast were canceled, and Logan Airport was no exception.  Schools were closed. The temperatures stayed low, and  by  last Sunday, the high at 6 am was 9F, the low in some areas, -2.

But only a few days later, the temperatures began to climb, and  yesterday, when the temperature rose to 48F, the great melting was in full force. Uggs boots were impractical—warm but impractical in the puddles that flooded the streets and sidewalks. Drive time after work was a mess, with many back roads blocked off by police vehicles, blue lights flashing. Detours wended miles out of our usual routes.

Dinner was delayed, too, even though we were only reheating leftover chili and throwing together an express salad. That, in turn, delayed our January semester-break Netflix viewing schedule—The Crown, Season 2—and left less time for evening reading: The Year of the Runaways (my spouse) and Manhattan Beach (me).

This morning, the melting continues. The thermometer registers 55F.   Global warming in all its messy, wet, inconvenient glory.

The forecast calls for a high of 25F tomorrow.  The melting snow will soon freeze into ice—a firm crust on the snowdrifts. black ice on asphalt driveways and streets. Dogwalkers will attach crampons to their boots, and homeowners will scatter ice melt on their steps and walks.

In October of last year, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced his proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plant policy. Such a reversal of environmental policy would mean more coal burning, and more manmade climate change.   The EPA will accept public comment on the EPA’s proposal, through April of this year, so if you’re as mad as hell, you might want to weigh in.

As for me, I’m off to check for leaks in the garage and basement.

 

 

“I’m as mad as hell…”  Peter Finch, in Network ( 1976)

 

 

 

 

 

How to Download My Microchapbook, “Punting” — from the Origami Poems Project

clothesline poems clipped
My origami poetry chapbook,
Punting,”  is ready to download (free) & fold –6 poems.
use paper color of your choice and follow the folding instructions!

Last of the Press Run…Baltimore Girls

Just received one last shipment of my 2017 poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, from my publisher–last of the press run. Sales have been good, but I’d love to sell as many of these as possible before my next chapbook is released in the spring. If you ‘re interested in purchasing a copy, please email me at lviti@wellesley.edu,  and I will send you the relevant information. Proceeds from purchases that come directly from me (as opposed to online booksellers) go to scholarship funds at Mercy High Baltimore, and I was pleased to donate those from 2017 to Mercy last month. Thanks for all your support, dear friends and readers.
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New Year’s Eve 2017: Not Just Another Sunday/Why I’m Not Happy with My Mother’s Sewing Machine

We hear the roll call of those “who left us this year.” I’m covering my ears and humming a Leonard Cohen song. I eschew those lists of the recently departed.

Yoga and gym classes are suddenly crowded. That probably will last a few more weeks, and then, only   the regulars will  show up faithfully each week to heave hand weights, dance to salsa or hip hop tunes, or work on their downward-facing dog poses.

I ready myself to write 2018, and not 2017 on checks—am I the only one in the world who still writes checks?  Occasionally I catch myself absentmindedly writing 1982. Or 1978. Or at least thinking of it for a nanosecond.

The Christmas flower arrangements, greens and white mums and red carnations—are holding up pretty well, but it’s time to pull out the shiny red balls and bows and convert the flower dishes to winter white and evergreen.

We’re weeding the ornament collection this year—anything we have not used in four or five years goes off to the Vietnam Vets collection on January 10.

This brings up the subject of my mother’s 1962 Singer sewing machine. An odd shade of gray-blue plastic, it weighs about 40 pounds. I had it tuned up five or six years ago, tried using it once, and have despaired of ever getting it to work properly again. The old guy who works out of the vacuum cleaner store, repairing sewing machines, is very likely no longer with us. I’d like to start sewing again after a twenty-year hiatus, but perhaps on a spiffy new machine that will not require two sixty-year-olds to lift it onto the work table. And one that someone knows how to maintain. Then again, I think a shiny black classic Singer in good shape might be nice—if I could learn how to keep it oiled and working. So what’s the plan—take an adult ed class in maintaining small machinery, and peruse Craigslist for a 1950’s Singer, like the ones we used in Mrs. McMillan’s Home Ec class at Hamilton Junior High?

This flotsam and jetsam of the rolling old year crowds my brain. No wonder I can’t find my keys.

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Happy New Year, Feliz ano nuevo, Felice anno nuovo, Gelukkig nieuwjaar, Bonne année,  Frohes neues Jahr to all my readers! 

Is it too soon to take down the Christmas tree?

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Until my sister and I were out of high school and my parents invested in a silvery artificial Christmas tree,  my mother put up what we called the “real” Christmas tree as close to Christmas Eve as possible. To hold us off, from early December till a few days before Christmas,  she gave us little projects: an Advent calendar coated with silver glitter, with tiny windows, behind which lay old-fashioned toys—tops, trains, kewpie dolls, bears wearing red ribbon bows, jacks, toy workbenches, roller skates.  Or a twelve-inch 1940’s –era plastic Christmas tree that came with tiny glass Christmas ornaments which we painstakingly hung on the tree.

            Or the humblest pre-Christmas ritual of all—the brown paper tree, fashioned from several large Food Fair grocery bags that she cut apart and glued, drawing on it  a seven-foot tall tree shape. With safety scissors, my sister and I carefully cut along the outline of the tree our mother had outlined in dark green crayon. On the scraps of brown paper, we drew and colored in ornaments: round globes in red and  green using the fat primary grade crayons.  When we were a little older, we graduated to the standard 24- crayon Crayola box, and feeling adventurous, we colored paper ornaments in other Crayola shades—burnt Sienna, Azure blue, red-orange, to design fancier balls. For gold, we deployed yellow. For silver, we used gray. After dinner on weeknights, or in the afternoon on Advent Saturdays, we lay on our stomachs in the small kitchen, bearing down hard on our thick Crayolas.

            “Sit up when you use the scissors,” our mother said. “No cutting while you’re lying down.” As soon as she left the room, we were back on our bellies, carefully cutting out the paper ornaments. I was in charge of drawing the star, and we both filled it in with hard strokes, so no brown Food Fair bag paper would show through. We made a stack of the cut-out shapes. Mom taped the giant paper tree to the wall I the kitchen, and each day, she helped us glue a few or the paper ornaments onto the tree. By the time we got to the bottom of the ornament pile, there was a real Christmas tree in the corner of our small dining room, perfuming the small apartment with its fresh balsam scent.

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The Christmas cards began to arrive in early December, from aunts and uncles, from Mom’s friends from her teaching days before I was born, from neighbors, from Mom and Dad’s friends from Sparrows Point.  Mom opened and read each one aloud to us. We rubbed our fingers over the ones with flocked designs, or real cotton for Santa’s beard. On a metal apparatus in the shape of a pine tree, Mom displayed the cards, and when the clips of the metal tree were all used up, she taped holiday cards to the woodwork arch leading from the dining room into the kitchen. Out came the Christmas stockings, which hung on a red ribbon attached to the wall with thumbtacks, because we had no fireplace. Mom said not to worry, Santa would enter and exit from the stairs that led from our grandma’s home downstairs up to our place. The real tree stayed bare in its stand, a red vessel that held the trunk tight by long screws boring into the wood. The lights and the real glass ornaments never appeared, back then, until after my sister and I were fast asleep.

            A few days after Christmas, my mother began to notice the dropped needles that appeared everywhere in the apartment.  She let us keep our favorite gifts, the dolls and toys, under the tree until New Year’s Day. But the pajamas, the scarf and glove sets from our aunts, the bath towels with the circus motif, personalized with our names, and the games had to be stowed in our bureaus or the big closet.  Soon, the real tree would be gone, lying on the curb for the garbage men to claim. The paper tree my sister and I worked so hard on was rolled up and discarded. All the sugar cookies and the chocolate chips had been eaten up, and what remained were a few hard, spicy gingersnaps that only my parents liked. I wondered aloud her what she would do with the Christmas cards, and she said I could collect them, use them for whatever projects I could think up. She handed me a small box, I watched her pull the cards from the woodwork, one by one. This time, she didn’t even look inside at the signatures.

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              She removed the fragile ornaments from the tree and lined them up on the dining room table. As she inspected each ornament, and placed it into its niche in the storage box, the television droned on in the adjacent living room. “Nineteen fifty-two is just around the corner,” the tv announcer said, as he began touting a new car. I contemplated his words. What does that mean, I asked my mother? “It means the new year’s almost here, “ she said.

             Memories of that time, perhaps even of that particular day, are vivid. My father was at work; sister was napping. I was too old for that, so I sat with her as she packed up Christmas. Her whole life, she fought hard to keep the blues at bay at Christmastime, for the holiday brought on sad memories of her straitened childhood.  I didn’t understand why she was in such a hurry to get back to normal, as she put it.  She was always glad to see New Year’s day come and go, and to put Christmas on the shelf, or up in the attic, for another year.

            Two days after Christmas, I feel my mother’s spirit in the room, rising up. Time to close up Christmas for this year—is it too soon to start?

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Punting

Among the many sweet Christmas gifts that came to me this morning, this–a notification that the Origami Poems Project will be publishing my six-poem collection, “Punting,” in a microchapbook!

Once Punting  is published, copies will be available to blog readers, gratis, until my supply runs out.  If you’d like a copy, please comment on this post.

clothesline poems clipped

Punting

Elvis had just died in Memphis—he was just forty-two.

You and I’d just moved in together,

to a third floor walkup in Brookline.

We were just in Cambridge for a couple days,

long enough to rent a punt,

travel up the River Cam for just a few lazy hours.

I lay back in the boat while you pushed the pole,

I read aloud the King’s obit from the Herald-Trib.

Just the two of us on a calm Tuesday,

drifting, then and later, back home,

for a short while, not quite in love,

just close, a stepping stone

was what we had, just enough for then,

a short prelude to our separate lives.

Now, a fragment of that day

comes back:  your boyish laugh,

your golden curls glinting in the English sun.

 

 

Thank You, America — a poem collage by Kwame Alexander

Thank You, America

The sun rising behind farm houses in the Midwest 
The clear mountain rivers in Montana
I hope we have the wisdom to treasure all of it.

A glimmer of dawn
First flickers in Maine

For the mountains. 
magnificent weathered beacons of topographical wonder.

Tengo gracias that I can speak my mind 
y no aye consecuencia graves when I do so.

I won’t lie, I struggled with this question 
With all the fighting, hate and violence 
it has been difficult to remember to be thankful. 
However, when I read stories of people who 
stand up and speak out 
for justice and truth 
I become immensely grateful and proud of America.Article continues after this message from our sponsor

Freedom to whisper against kings
My grandmother who carried her green card 
in the broken tattoos on her back

I am thankful that other people are still trying to come here.
I am thankful for the vastness of our borders and the beauty of our natural lands.

Sunshine streaming softly 
while we sip our morning coffee.
But across the oceans our troops fight
ensuring that we keep our rights, 
to give us a land of the free.
For the first responders
For hope

I am thankful for America’s history, warts and all. 
Our past, full of light and dark, 
Read the history 
of heroes and villains 
See our country for what it is.

Free Press and Free speech
to speak out against injustices in our country,

For family
For places to walk safely
places to paddle
arcades of trees
varied, inexpensive food
tools and workplaces
longtime friends who listen
tennis courts

Indoor plumbing,

to worship whoever we want, 
to say whatever we want,
to go wherever we want.

for the public libraries. 
They raise up voices whom others attempt to silence.

for diversity. 
For differences 
My son is transgender and I am grateful for those who treat HER with respect and kindness.

for Cape May; for parties on the Fourth of July; for anarchist coffee shops; for church-run thrift stores; hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints; Lake Michigan; Vinny’s Pizzeria in the 90s; beer delivery in a snow storm;

for second, third and fourth chances. 
For forgiveness. 
I am thankful that my hybrid existence, hinted by my brown skin and slanted eyes, can make sense in America.

For many spectacular parks in our nation–from the huge and awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the tiny neighborhood park with the small playground and the pretty benches painted by local artists.

I am grateful that America can change, too. 
for the millions who take to the streets, 
challenge authority, 
insist on change, 
demand justice, 
resist evil, tell their stories,

Wrought through division
Sustained by freedom’s hope
Seeking reunion 
I am thankful for America, most of the time.
AMERICA LET’S ME CONNECT AND PLAY VIDEOS WITH THE WORLD 
AMERICA ALLOWS ME TO PLAY BASKETBALL
AMERICA GIVES ME A GOOD EDUCATION

Thank you, America,
For the mom and pop shops and rest stops.
For the back roads and the beaten paths.
For the love that greets me when I come home.

For the dream to become, 
the dream to make better or different, 
the dream to inspire, 
the dream of something on the other side 
of whatever is facing us in the moment

  by Kwame Alexander  

Reprinted from https://www.npr.org/2018/11/22/669704214/thank-you-america-a-crowdsourced-holiday-poem-that-s-a-blessing-to-read, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 18 (collage) by Gina Maranto. Copyright Gina Maranto 2018 All rights reserved