Buffalo Check: It’s A Thing.

Martin-Garcia family, 3 generations 2019
Jean and Steve Martin of Perry Hall, Maryland, with their adult children and grandchildren: the Garcias of Perry Hall, the Garcias of Chicago, and the Walraths of Baltimore. Photo credit: Meghan Walrath

“It’s a thing,” I told my husband, when we opened the second holiday card featuring a photo of an extended family, all sporting red and black checked pajamas. “It’s buffalo check.”

He looked confused. “Buffalo check,” I repeated. “It’s all the rage with grandparents this year. They require their adult children and grandchildren to dress in it for the annual holiday card photo.”


He wondered aloud if this was something all grandparents do these days.

“Maybe not all, but a lot of them,” I said. I gestured to the two photographs in our mounting stack of holiday cards…”


Ever wonder about the origin of this super-popular plaid design? Read my OpEd/Commentary on the ubiquitous Buffalo Check turning up this season  in family  holiday cards.

My short  essay appears online today and in the Jan 2 print edition of my hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun.You can read it online here. 

Christmas 1956, Redux

I’m reposting this poem from 2015, at a reader’s request.  Photo by Marcella Spigelmire, most likely. Place: Oakcrest Avenue, Baltimore, our old apartment.

Christmas 1956


My father opened his wallet to show me

a hundred dollar bill.

I thought he was rich, and said so.

Naw, he answered and carefully

slid the crisp paper  back into its leather sleeve.


Christmas morning

my sister and I opened box after box.

Angora sweaters,  knee socks

Ricky Nelson LP for me,

roller skates for her.


My mother gave Dad pajamas,

socks, a hand warmer gadget

for Colt games at Memorial Stadium.


When it was all over

paper detritus littering rose-colored carpet,

Dad pointed to the back of the  Christmas tree

wedged against the long drapes

at the picture window

so the colored lights were on display

for all of Hilltop Avenue to see.


Merry Christmas, Mom, he said quietly.

My mother jumped up, almost

tripping over her long robe,

laughed when it came into her view,

that hundred dollar bill, clipped to the tree

by a Shaker clothespin.


Not for paying the bills, Dad said.

Now Mom was rich.


The Friday Night Irregulars





Snow predicted, sun vanished today earlier

than usual.  At the Post Office, technology stalls,

Jim the counterman says no credit, only debit—

I mail a first class envelope full of poems,


aimed southwards, where they have Continue reading “The Friday Night Irregulars”

Christmas Revels: A Cantabrigian Tradition


Last night, four of us gathered at an Indian restaurant in Harvard Square for a delicious, spicy meal, then trekked across Harvard Yard to Memorial Hall, for Christmas Revels, this year, an American celebration, with music from Appalachia, George Sea Islands, New England and the American South.

There was a brass band, a concertina, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and the standard Revels elements: the sword dance, the mummer’s play where John Barleycorn must die and return to life, the audience and performers  singing of “Dona Nobis Pacem”and the Sussex Mummer’s Carol. Led by the reliable and energetic David Coffin, this year’s troupe included  some talented young cloggers and singers. the soloists were uniformly gifted:  soloist Carolyn Saxon, super-talented banjo and guitar duo Sqiurrel Butter (Charmain Slaven sings, clog dances, and plays guitar, usually two of these simultaneously!),  banjoist/singerJake Blount. Memorial Hall filled with music, song, and

Experiencing Christmas Revels (and oh, the chance to sing with a hall full of performers and audience!)  is   a perfect way to mark the shortest day, and to welcome  Yule. And soon,  to bid farewell to the Teens, and on to the new decade. Continue reading “Christmas Revels: A Cantabrigian Tradition”

“Greenwich Mean Time”

My poem, “Greenwich Mean Time,” appears in the latest issue, # 64.2, of Westerly: New Writing from Western Australia. Thank you to Westerly for publishing my work, and for paying me as well!

Greenwich Mean Time

In a time of a war halfway across the world—
a war we didn’t want, one spurred by old men,
we fled the city, taking our books and music,
our bed and a secondhand table.

In my grandmother’s station wagon
up the Henry Hudson Parkway we rattled along
into Westchester onto the Merritt,
everything we owned stuck in boxes or pillowcases.

We settled into a rented flat over a garage.
The kitchen windows admitted the morning light.
We eschewed meat, discovered tofu, kasha, spinach noodles,
dined on garbanzo beans and cashew butter.

Our paychecks covered rent and gas, groceries,
food for the cats we brought home from the pound,
a calico and a black one who sucked his paw when he dozed.
we drove slowly down Catrock Road in snow.

The city seemed so distant. The birds that stayed
all winter darted from one naked branch to the next.
Weekends, we lay in bed till ten, reading the paper,
nestled against each other under the emerald spread.

You hadn’t found work. In December you sold
Christmas trees from a Port Chester lot, freezing your hands,
so used to office work, the telephone, the foolscap pads.
There were quarrels over nothing, or over money.

We sold the motorcycle to pay the oil bill.
We missed the museums, the subway,
the long walks from midtown to home, the newsstands,
the confectionery with chocolate Florentines.

We missed the faces of people we passed on the street,
Everyone in suburbia was white, with perfect teeth.
Everyone seemed happy with the way things were going,
in the town, in the country, in the broken world.


Ocean City Memories

Esskay clock, Ocean City boardwalk, 1960’s.

(skit performed by  the Hon. Carol E. Smith in her younger days, as Commander Whitehead, and some other class of ’64 girl, Mercy High School, Baltimore, circe 1963–parodying a Schweppes TV commercial of the era)

Unnamed MHS ’64 girl: Been away, Commander?

Whitehead: [with impeccable British accent] Not really. Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon….Ocean City.

[hysterical laughter from all-school assembly — the first two MHS classes, ’64 and ’65)

An excerpt from one of the stories in my debut prose collection, Going Too Fast:

“What every Baltimore teenager longed for was an unchaperoned week in Ocean City with friends. Lots of friends. Six to a hotel room meant for two. Coke or coffee and doughnuts for breakfast, and maybe a slice or two of pizza for lunch. Dinner was on the fly, as well— takeout or a Dairy Queen burger. There was beer. Lots of it.  And there was sex—or what passed for it. The girls didn’t talk about it much, but you knew, or thought you did, what a girl was up to. The guys might’ve been just as secretive, or else they could’ve exaggerated how far they’d gone.   Most of us had to wait until we had graduated from high school to get permission to go to the beach unchaperoned. ..” ~from “Tony Bennett, Aldous Huxley, and Eddie”



If this looks interesting to you consider pre-ordering the book, from https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/going-too-fast-by-lynne-viti/?fbclid=IwAR3ZvOppiQoW8Xzn1R_p7Ke8JNRPnnkOxxOAjyfeT5FWykzKj05CpisLn8w

Pre-orders dictate the pressrun. Books will be shipped in mid March 2020.

And proceed=s from the sale of my author’s copies (which can number 25-50 depending on preorder totals), go to Mercy High development fund.



For Love of Compost


Many years ago, Joseph  Hudak, an author and  landscape designer who was a frequent patron at our local public library—where my husband worked—gave me some valuable advice about gardens and leaves, at the house we’d just moved into. One, make sure that in spring, summer and fall, at any moment, something is in bloom in the garden, Continue reading “For Love of Compost”

My OpEd in the Cape Cod Times today: Thanksgiving Lite, No Food Coma



When our children were young, our Thanksgiving ritual never varied. We piled into our station wagon with the kids’ favorite toys and Rosenshontz CDs to amuse them on the ride to my in-laws’ house in Rhode Island. Without fail, my mother-in-law would greet us at the door, always wearing a handmade apron. The fragrance of roasting turkey and freshly baked apple and pumpkin pies permeated the house.

But the first order of business was lunch – homemade pizza, its crust thick and light, with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. It was hard to stop after two slices. Continue reading “My OpEd in the Cape Cod Times today: Thanksgiving Lite, No Food Coma”

My debut short story collection-GOING TOO FAST–now available for pre-ordering


Going Too Fast by Lynne Viti


Advance Reviews for Going Too Fast

Going Too Fast is a masterfully composed collection of distinct but interrelated stories whose characters teeter on the fine edge between adolescence and adulthood. With arresting attention to detail, humor, and poignancy, Viti’s stories of love, loss, friendship, and family will resonate long after you’ve read them.

–Anne M. Brubaker, Wellesley College

The stories in Going Too Fast are both poetic and truthful, as Viti weaves together the prosaic and the extraordinary.  In so doing, she moves her readers in and out of time. Like her characters, the stories have their feet in two worlds. Like a “tightrope artist,” the author delights, provokes, and entertains her readers in this shimmering new collection.

–Heather Corbally Bryant, Wellesley College, author, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper

“In these beautifully crafted stories, Lynne Viti lets readers effortlessly enter the world of the characters – whether it’s a 1960’s Manhattan college campus or the “wide cinder stub of a road” in Baltimore. Readers will appreciate Viti’s impeccable use of detail, her clear language, and the even-tempered, retrospective tone of her prose. These stories resonate; they stick around like fragments and figures of one’s own past.”

–Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Author of The True History of Paradise and The Pirate’s Daughter

$19.99, full-length, paper


Lynne Viti‘s recent publications are Baltimore Girls (2017), The Glamorganshire Bible (2018), Finishing Line Press,  and microchapbooks Punting (2017) and Dreaming Must Be Done in the Daytime (2019),Origami Poems Project.  She received Honorable Mentions in the WOMR/Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest (2018 and 2019). She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.

 To order, go to https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/going-too-fast-by-lynne-viti/



Two nights after
the president was shot
my mother went out.

She put on silver blue eyeshadow.
She wore her Persian lamb jacket
with the mink collar.

It was the year
she was having the kitchen redone.
The house was in disarray.

I sat on our brocade sofa.
I watched
the small black and white tv.
It sat in a temporary place
atop an end table.

I watched
the news replay
Jack Ruby shooting Oswald.

A boy I thought I liked came by.
I didn’t like the way
he chugged from the green Coke bottle,
swished it around like mouthwash
before he swallowed.

I never forgave my mother.
I wanted her to sit
on the sofa with me
and cry.



— from my first poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, Finishing Line Press, 2017

To order: Baltimore Girls,  go to



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Murphy in August

My poem was inspired by a social media post from Richard Murphy announcing his impending retirement. Richard, Gloria, Dan and my sister Anne were housemates on Reynolds Road in Danbury, when they were students at Western Connecticut State, in the ‘Seventies. “Murphy in August” appears in the latest issue of the Muddy River Poetry Review, and you can read it here.


Note: According to wikipedia, the Muddy River is a series of brooks and ponds that runs through sections of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, including along the south boundary of Brookline, Massachusetts (which formerly was known as Muddy River Hamlet before it was incorporated in 1705).

Amy Rigby, post-punk singer- songwriter–and now, memoirist– with a lot of attitude, at the Parlor Room in Northampton





When I woke up today I had a song in my head
I wanna wanna wanna go home
They played it last night when I was dancing with Joey Ramone

My husband turned me on to Amy Rigby, a sort of post-punk singer songwriter with a lot of attitude and irony in her lyrics. He had first heard about her from the esteemed and quirky rock critic Robert Christgau. Listening to Rigby’s songs for the past few years, I’ve come to love her outrageousness and her insight into herself and the difficult maneuvers women make when dealing with men, children, love, work, and — well, life. Continue reading “Amy Rigby, post-punk singer- songwriter–and now, memoirist– with a lot of attitude, at the Parlor Room in Northampton”

I’m back!

Hunkering down these past weeks to write.

Check out poetry super highway this week–I’m one of two poets of the week, and my poem “Biography” is published on the site. Baltimore -born readers especially, you might find this resonates with you.


I read my poem “Leftovers” on WCAI-FM Cape & the Islands Radio today–I invite you to listen here:

WCAI Cape and the Islands


It’s Reunion Season….

Reunion season…I’m looking forward to reading on May 31 with poet/ Barnard classmate Suzanne Noguere and others, at our Barnard reunion, and on June 8, at Wellesley College. Hope to see old friends at Barnard and friends and former students –especially from Wellesley Reunion Classes of 1994,1999, 2004, 2009 & 2014–my Wellesley Reunion reading is on Saturday, June 8th 3:30-4 PM in Pendleton West 001. Q& A and book signing to follow!

Shades at the Reunion

When we gather like this around the table,

every five or ten years, drinks in hand, raising toasts,

in the back of our minds, always, are the ghosts:

The cousin who died at forty, when the cancer flared.

The school friend, gone at barely fifty—she loved her smokes.

Toxins and her genes did her in.

The rest of us—we’ve survived,

though we’re not sure why or how.

My friend the hard-edged newsman

laughed when he told me his on-air transition phrase

“elsewhere in the news”—as if we could

move from tsunami to oil spill to death of an ex-president

with any kind of grace. When he lay dying

in his hospital bed in Croton-on-Hudson

this old journalist stared at tv images of Baltimore burning.

It’s all like it was before, he murmured.

Knowing all this, we sit in the cool air,

September sun on our faces,

hearing the songbirds carry on

like Yeats’ miracles in Byzantium.

“Sugar Pumpkins”

Happy that my poem, “Sugar Pumpkins,” is included in the South Florida Poetry Journal’s new anthology, ” Voices From the Fierce Intangible. In great company–including Denise Duhamel, Lyn Lifshin, Julie Marie Wade,Andrew Glaze, Blaise Allen and so many more!

You can order a copy from SoFloPoJo here: https://www.southfloridapoetryjournal.com/—

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.





— unstoppable, reliable, upstanding citizens of the garden.
No rain? no problem.
They husband their power,
call a halt to blooming,
get into the business of making seeds.

They remind me of our late neighbor

a tall thin fellow in his ninth decade

who rummaged through trash cans

to pluck out a wearable shirt.

He wasted nothing.

~My poem, originally published in *82 Review, now part of the *82 Review Special Pocket Poems issue. Download it for free at http://star82review.com/2019-pocket/contents.html?fbclid=IwAR38aZTAtqHTCiG8ymrgdUbbMR-SGGL7NrGkraYFrsYjKPP8djTPLfaM77Q

“The end of an era – and a baseball card collection”

… My father-in-law left us two years ago, at age 97. My husband led his siblings in the division of the parental furniture and the disposition of his father’s ashes. He also began weeding our bookshelves and donating many long-unread volumes to the local library book sale.

And then he turned to his baseball card collection….

Read my full essay in today’s online Baltimore Sun.

Putnam Avenue in Spring

Happy to be in good poetic company in the Spring 2019 issue of Nixes Mates Review. My poem, “Putnam Avenue in Spring” appears here.


Overnight, melting snow gave way to waves of daffodils
smothering the hill near the Protestant church.
But churches hung in our peripheral vision,
an annoyance, a reminder of what we rejected.
The public library was our church, the holy source where…

“Charlie on the MTA”…updated?

You may remember this old ditty, popularized by the Kingston Trio back in  1959 and based on a Boston mayoral  campaign song from even earlier, 1949.

The trolleys and buses of Boston are now called the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), and I’m delighted that next month, which is National Poetry Month, my poem will be among other works by Massachusetts poets displayed on placards on MBTA cars.  Here’s a sneak preview:



If you happen to be riding the MBTA next month, remember your Charlie card, and snap a photo of my poem and I’ll post it here.

Did he ever return?
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned.




The Good Father

This poem was the first one I wrote for Sam Cornish’s poetry workshop at the Boston Public Library several years ago. The following fall, Sam called me up to the front of the room after class had ended  and told me he had submitted “The Good Father” to a juried contest and that it had been chosen for a month-long exhibit at Boston City Hall.

This is the kind of teacher Sam was–generous, encouraging, and always pushing his students to publish and share their work. The poem was later accepted for publication in Grey Sparrow Journal in 2015.

The Good Father

The good father fell asleep on Saturdays
stretched out long on the couch.
Or he hoisted me onto his shoulders
or carried me into the ocean,
keeping a firm grip on me

The good father took me to church
let me play with my white prayer book
with the gold cross hidden in a place inside the cover.

He pointed to the altar in front
when the three bells rang
and the priest held the white circle bread high.

The good father slept in the big bed
on the white sheets with dark blue lines at the edges.
He lay next to my mother, slender, dark-eyed, pale.
Laughter came from their room at night,
and whispers that lulled me to sleep.

He drove us to Florida in the car with three pedals on the floor.
I tried to stand up in the back all the way to Virginia.
Dirty water came out of the hotel’s faucet in Charleston.
We heard the train whistle all night.

He brought me a Charlie McCarthy doll
so I could talk to everyone and not be so shy.
He smelled of aftershave and orange bath soap.
I traced the scar on his forehead with my small hand.

And later, the sad father came to be in our house.
He wore a heavy brace on his leg.
A black steel bar ran up the side of the boot.
He walked with a wooden cane.
Bottles of pills filled the medicine chest.

He was early to bed.
We had to be quiet then.


A Tribute to Baltimore-born poet, the late Sam Cornish

Sam Cornish (1935-2018), Poet Laureate of Boston from 2008-2015, was born and raised in Baltimore, but spent most of his later life in Boston.   Through his teaching at Emerson College, his poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library and other venues, and his ability to be seemingly everywhere where poetry of the people was shared and heard and spoken, Sam was a force of poetry. He encouraged novice writers and journeymenandwomen alike to write and to speak their truth through poetry.

Last Sunday, many of his former colleagues, students and poetry mentees gathered  at New England Mobile Book Fair.  Sam had spent much of his time at the bookstore’s old location helping generations of patrons locate just the books they were on a quest for–often in the vast remainder book section of that book  warehouse of yore.  Six months after his death, we  celebrated his life and work, and the profound influence he had on all of us.

Enormous gratitude to Somerville poet and editor Doug Holder for publishing my poem on  his blog and next week, in the print edition of The Somerville News, whose tagline is “Somerville’s Most Widely read Newspaper!”

You can read my Sam Cornish tribute poem here.

Sam C

For Valentine’s Day: “Jamaica Plain”

At a grouphouse down the block from the old stables,
a shambles, deserted, derelict, gentrification a long way off—
When the flu had you down for weeks, I figured you lost my number,
You recovered, you relapsed. My friends said he’s not healthy
enough for you. You sent me a ticket for Fenway Park.

I made coffee in my galley kitchen on Sunday morning.
We went to the movies, to a bar, drank a couple of pints,
went to my place, made a frittata with artichokes.
I watched you wash the dishes.

When the door closed behind you I couldn’t believe my luck.
For days I called up that feeling, your hands firm around my lower ribs,
like you were pressing my heart upwards so you might take it.
But it was already stashed in your pocket.

~Lynne Viti

Images by Barbara Aronica Buck, copyright 2019

This poem originally appeared in The Thing Itself.

On City Snow Days Gone By

This essay originally appeared in The Baltimore Sun in 2015. As the snow falls on my street today, I think back to the old neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, and our intrepid sledding down our city street.

The 6600 Block of Hilltop Avenue, Baltimore

I grew up in the 1960s, in a housing development that backed onto a small woods. Until our woods was razed and supplanted by apartment buildings, we used the “forest” to build forts and act out scenes from televisions shows about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. We wore coonskin caps, carried toy rifles and used paper percussion caps to simulate gunfire. In summer, we played baseball in our backyards. Sometimes a fly ball would vault into the woods and get lost. Or a loose foul tip broke a basement window behind the makeshift home plate. There were rivalries: the boys against the girls, the bigger kids against the younger ones. But snow was the great equalizer.

More than two inches meant an official Snow Emergency in Baltimore. All cars were ordered off the major thoroughfares, and sometimes even the smaller residential streets like ours in Northeast Baltimore near the county line. Snow tires weren’t unheard of, but more often, people drove to the local gas station and had chains installed on their tires. Riding in a car with chains was a noisy enterprise at best, and sometimes one of the links would come loose and rap at the wheel cover — we called them hubcaps. Soon the ride sounded like a morning in a noisy Lowell textile mill — crash, clatter, crash, clink, bang.

I don’t remember ever seeing a snowplow come down Hilltop Avenue. Once all the cars were reparked in driveways, some barely clearing the sidewalk. The fins of Chevys, Plymouths and Fords overhung pedestrian territory, and ambitious snow shovels had to navigate around the Detroit behemoths.

No plowing meant that our street, which sloped down from Northern Parkway with a nice angle for sledding, became the children’s territory. We grabbed our Flexible Flyers — no plastic sledding discs or toboggans for us in those days — rubbed the runners with Brillo pads to remove old rust, buffed the metal with waxed paper. We might squirt the steering mechanism with a little oil, check to be sure the old clothes line rope used to pull the sled up the hill was in serviceable condition. We didn’t have ski gear or waterproof pants or parkas. We wore jeans, maybe the kind that were lined with flannel, and our everyday jackets. A lot of us sported blue and white Baltimore Colts bobble hats. Mittens worked better than gloves.

The street was not blocked off for our play. A few parents congregated at the top of the hill near the big parkway, warning intrepid drivers to slow down or wait for a dozen kids to make a sled run down the road of identical semi-detached brick homes. Once the last sledder had careened over the packed snow, hoping to make it almost all the way to the end where our street met Burdick Park, the car’s driver inched down the street. Not one kid wore protective headgear. No one ever suffered more than a bump or bruise. Collisions between sleds were common, but except for a whine or a tear here and there, even the bigger boys and the tougher girls were considerate road-mates, timing their belly flops to avoid the younger kids.

My friend Linda often recalls the common practices of our youth: We rode standing up in the back of the family car so we could see through the windshield and out into the world; our fathers held us on their laps while they clumsily juggled a cigarette and a can of beer; we were left home alone at night from the age of nine or 10, to babysit younger siblings; we had no smoke alarms, and our parents smoked in their bedroom or the bathroom; we went door to door selling Girl Scout cookies, ringing the bells of people outside our neighborhoods, strangers. Our parents taught us how to use our gut senses to back off or flee if things didn’t seem quite right.

On the city street that for a few days became our sledding run, we screamed with joy as we raced, belly down, chin slightly up for visual navigation, hands gripping the Flexible Flyer steering bar. It was pure, intense, unforgettable delight.

Lynne Viti is a lecturer emerita in the writing program at Wellesley College. Her email is lviti@wellesley.edu.

New Year Greetings! Old Frog Pond Farm Poem of the Month for January 2019

My poem “Deep Midwinter After-Party,” is featured on the Old Frog Pond Farm website as one of two Poems of the Month, along with my poetry colleague Heather Corbally Bryant‘s “Holly Bushes.” We’ll be reading at Old Frog Pond Farm, 38 Eldridge Road, Harvard, MA at 3 PM on Sunday, January 20!

You can read “Deep Midwinter After-Party” and “Holly Bushes” here, on Old Frog Pond’s poetry page:  http://oldfrogpondfarm.com/poem-of-the-month/       



Every day for decades she has swallowed
the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
They don’t make me feel happy, she said—
but at least I can get up and put
one foot in front of the other.

The Zoloft creates a floor,
beneath which I know I won’t fall.
That’s the best it does.
Walking, I thought of this floor.

I made my way along the bay beach.
Ice chunks collected next to rushes whipped,
beaten by early winter winds.
A thick layer of pinestraw padded the walking trails.
The wind numbed my cheeks. I stepped

lightly around a wire rectangle covering
beach hay, marked with a small blue flag—
endangered turtle’s nest.

On the main street, shops closed up
for the season, remnants of Christmas wreaths
stuck to the doors. No one inside.
Library, toy store, restaurants all shuttered.

Only the market and the library interested
in commerce of one sort or another,
winter vegetables, or books and DVDs.
Solar panels of a house across the way
caught sunlight, the grids glinted.

It made me happy to see this. I thought
of the floor beneath which I do not fall, the wood floor
of my study, the mat rolled out so I can sit and notice
my breath, notice how I feel. I thought

of the ground I knelt on yesterday, when
I cut down the dried miscanthus grasses
tied them with twine, stacked them in the shed. Solid
ground that lets me kneel, sit, tread on it. The ground
is the floor below which I do not fall.

All this allows me to awaken,
put one foot in front of the other,
into the work ahead. All this
binds winter body to winter soul.

Cape Cod grasses in winter.

My poem, “Floor,” was first published in Incandescent Minds, 2016

in today’s Baltimore Sun–OPINION: Closing Up Christmas for Another Year

When my kid sister and I were young, our “real” tree wasn’t up until Christmas Eve. To hold us off, when we clamored starting on December 1 for a tree decorated with lights,  our mother gave us projects: an Advent calendar coated with silver glitter, its tiny windows opening to old-fashioned toys—tops, trains, kewpie dolls, bears wearing red ribbon bows, jacks, toy workbenches, roller skates…

Read my Opinion piece in the December 26, 2018 online Baltimore Sun. You can find the full essayhere. The print edition will carry the piece on December 27.

Midnight Mass

We arrived at ten minutes of twelve, my father and I,
at St. Dominic’s, my grandmother’s church, though by then
she was tucked away in a nursing home south of the city
where nuns in nurses’ uniforms cared for her, prayed

the rosary with her until her mind went, until
the nursing home doctor prescribed restraints
so Grandmother wouldn’t assault the kind nuns, or
scratch herself till her thin arms bled.

St. Dominic’s was a grand church, studded with statues
of the Blessed Virgin, vaulted ceilings,
Stations of the Cross, painted wood, punctuated by gilt
as fancy as you’d see in a cathedral.

Two heavy glass doors at the front entrance, too modern
and the parish school, sturdy structure of gray gneiss stone,
Things that were always there. I must have absorbed all this,
Though what was important was being with my father,

on Christmas, in the days of the Latin Mass,
genuflecting at the pew he chose, watching him flip up the kneeler
to accommodate his bad leg, it wouldn’t bend.

 I opened my Sunday Missal to Mass of the Catechumens.
The priest faced the altar, not us, he mumbled his church Latin.
I loved the sameness of it all, the waiting till the usher
approached, waved us into the communion line.

I loved standing behind my father, shuffling
to the altar rail, waiting for him to kneel,
laboriously. I loved sticking out my tongue
to receive the tasteless paper disc that was Our Lord,

walking back to our pew, covering my face with my hands
as my father did, praying for whatever it was I prayed for
in those days, usually for God to repair my father’s leg,
Let him walk again without the brace.

My thoughts wandered to Christmas morning,
Whether I’d find what I ‘d asked for under the tree.
Everyone stood up. The priest, his back to us,
Was saying Ite, missa est. I know this because

The Mass is ended, it said.
But we weren’t done yet. We said   
prayers for the Conversion of Russia.
I loved these, especially asking for protection

against the wickedness and snares of the devil, who wandered the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Now, the Mass ended.

My father grasped the back of the pew in front,
pulled himself up to stand.
We exited with the slow-moving crowd,
were disgorged onto the front steps of the church.

In the black night, everything seemed possible.
Merry Christmas, pal, my father said.
Want to get breakfast?

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


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


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


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.


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


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.