The 365th Day

 

This is the day we do that summing up.

Annoying, isn’t it, the way

we tally and sort the year’s days

into the things –or people—we like and those

that caused us pain? We inventory

and discard, if we’re smart, whatever

no longer works, or what

carries no joy. We have this need

to take stock, as though we

were running a giant store full of

stuff, boots and gloves, or jars

of face cream and scented soaps.

This year let it alone,

think instead of the faint yellow blush

on the forsythia. Soon we can snip

its branches, hammer the stems

against the stone walk, set it all

in warm water in an old jar.

The small blooms, and then

tender green leaves will unfold

in the corner window.

Forcing spring

in midwinter.

 

Reprinted from Hedgerow, # 19

Boxing Day

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

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

 

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

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

You can find my poem here.

“Baltimore Girls” -Enormous Gratitude!

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

My Mother on My Cousin’s Wedding Day

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How (and why!) to pre-order my poetry collection, “Baltimore Girls”

How: go to: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/baltimore-girls-by-lynne-viti/

Pre-ordering continues through January 6, 2107.

Why it’s important to pre-order: because this small press pays authors  not in royalties or cash, but in  book copies. The more pre-orders, the more copies (25 if I get fewer than 99 pre-orders, 50 if I have 100-154 preorders, 75 if I have 155+ preorders.

More why:  I care deeply about education, particularly for those kids in Baltimore or Boston who want to be part of a faith-based school with a mission to serve urban students. For all those copies I receive in lieu of payment, I will donate half the sale proceeds to Mercy High School, Baltimore, and the other half to Epiphany School, Boston.

Support poetry, support me– the blogger/teacher/poet– and support kids in Baltimore and Boston!

Baltimore Girls will be available on amazon after January 6, but that will not factor into my pre-orders and the books Finishing Line Press hands over to me to sell and do with the proceeds as I wish. Just sayin’.

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December 1: Sunset 4:10 PM

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

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Black Sunday, Sunset 4:14 PM

 

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

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

Sunset, 4:16 PM EST

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

from “Baltimore Girls”

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

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

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

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

Here’s the dedication for the book:

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

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

Nickel Dreams

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

An excerpt from my “Baltimore Girls” poetry collection

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

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Salad Days

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

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

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


 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The garden was there before we were.

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

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

 

 

Finalist for the Grey Borders Press (Ontario, Canada)

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

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

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

Best of the Net Nomination for “Higher Math”

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

The Mountain, the Dottore and I

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Don’t be such a drama queen, I thought.

With me  in the dottore’s  narrow waiting room were  Massimo, manager of our hotel in Castelluccio Superiore, Martina, our young tour manager from Palermo, and Tom, my husband and primo hiking companion.

I sank back into the soft cushions and squinted at  the framed certificates and testimonials, but they were too far away, and it still hurt to stand. I had been applying ice to my leg for the past two days, but  a large hematoma wasn’t  shrinking.

It looked as though my hiking trip in southern Italy was over almost as soon as it had begun. As luck would have it, this  dottore, on staff at the hospital in Potenza,  also saw patients in his home office in Castelluccio Inferiore, about 2 miles from out modest hotel.

I stared at a photo of a middle-aged woman on the breakfront. By the looks of her hair style and dress, I guessed the picture dated from the 1940’s. His mother, or an aunt?  I heard the voices of two women in another room of the house, then a man’s voice, then laughter. Were they having afternoon tea?

Then the  door to the room across the hallway opened and two older ladies emerged, smiling and bidding arriverderci to the dottore. He popped his head into the waiting room, and said something I only caught the end of—lavarmi.

“He’s going to wash his hands, “ Martina said.   He soon reappeared, and ushered three of us—Martina, my husband and me—into the examining room. Massimo went to wait in his car.

I thought back to the previous day, when I fell while our escorted tour was walking at the bottom of a gorge between two 3,000 meter high  mountains. We crossed back and forth over a stream, walking on  wet stones. It had rained hard the day before, and a thick carpet of fallen beech leaves on the trail was spongy in some places, slick in others. Our hiking poles slid down through several inches of wet brown leaves. Suddenly I slipped, hitting my shin hard. I  rolled up my pants but saw only a faint scratch — it was nothing. Or it was nothing until three hours later, after we had ascended the steep path up the mountain, past a plain where wild horses grazed, then up and up, until we reached the perfect place for lunch at the top of the mountain. There was no road access. That morning as we set out, Martina handed each of us a panino and a chocolate bar. She couldn’t drive the van up to meet us for our usual picnic lunch. Now, atop the mountain, we looked out from the promontory to the Pollino valley,  south to the Ionian Sea, its cerulean blue waters laced with foam, lapping the sand.

Only then did I notice the throbbing  in my  leg. I rolled up my pant leg. My husband watched, and on his face  I read surprise, or maybe  alarm. Near my shin, slightly to the right and a few inches above the ankle was a protrusion the size of a tennis ball. There was no ice–no emergency ice packs like the ones soccer coaches carry with them for every practice, every game. No  way to get down the mountain except to walk down. I tied my bandana around the lump and knotted  it as tight as I could.

While our fellow hikers continued on their walk, a loop that would return them to our mountaintop lookout spot, I sat with my husband and Greta, who wanted a rest. While I propped up the injured leg on my backpack and tried not to think about the throbbing sensation, the three of us talked about books, King Leopold’s Ghost,  My Brilliant Friend,  The Hunger Games. When the group returned, my husband helped me to my feet and I hobbled down the mountain. Three fellow hikers waited for us, standing at their posts a half mile apart. As we met up with each one in turn, the comrade would chat as I limped along,  distracting me from my predicament.

Now, a day after my fall, the dottore tore off a sheet  of paper from the long roll  at  the head of the examining table, smoothed it, and gestured for me to climb up.  I slid onto the table and rolled up the keg of my hiking pants, revealing a bruise  from knee to instep.

Martina translated. I said I’d fallen, at the time, I didn’t think I’d hurt myself, only a scratch, then I discovered this big lump on my leg three hours later after we had scaled the mountain.

Dottore Sproviero put his hand on my ankle gently. He palpated the leg. He was a sturdy, athletic looking man, quite bald, with wire-rimmed spectacles and blue-gray eyes. His manner was very serious.  With his hand still on my ankle lightly, he looked directly into my eyes.

“Signora, you do not have to go to ospedal,” he said quietly. “It is only a hematoma. I will give you some medicine. You must stay off the leg, no more hiking this trip, and you must wrap the leg in an elastic band.”

The dottore went to his imposing wooden desk next to the examining table. With an elegant fountain pen, he wrote out the diagnosis on cream colored stationery imprinted with an image of Leonardo da Vinci’s L’Uomo Vitruviano.

Then, he used  a ballpoint pen to write out two prescriptions. I asked what these were for, as any good American consumer would do.

“Something to help the leg heal,” he said. The dottore had spoken. I did not press him for details.

He wrote out the bill, affixed an official looking holographic seal  on it, and handed the paper to my husband. Ninety-two Euros.

My husband  and Martina rushed off to an ATM down the street.

Massimo and I waited in his car while my husband paid  the dottore.  Tom emerged from the  dottore’s house with eight Euros,  the first time he’d ever gotten change from a doctor.

“How’s the leg?” asked the retired Royal Navy pilot, every single day and right up until we boarded the plane at Naples  bound for the UK, at the end of our hiking trip.

“I had to be helicoptered off a mountain in Switzerland once, skiing accident,” said the former Royal Marine, now landscape architect. “Broke four ribs. Awfully inconvenient.”

“Did you ask the doctor about clotting?” asked the retired nurse who had worked in New Guinea and Australia for many years. “Did he heparinize you?”

“Rather bad luck!” mused the tall, shy Brit who liked to photograph every flower on every trail.

I rested in our next very fancy  hotel, or rode with Martina when she expertly drove the van on switchback  roads. I hobbled through the small Naples airport for our flight to Gatwick.  At Heathrow and at Logan airport, I had Special Assistance–express trips by wheelchair, through security, immigration and customs.

My stateside internist examined the leg,  saw  no complications, and advised me to  wear a compression sock. He told me to discard the heparin gel that cost 28 Euros, and opined that the vitamin C-bromelain-MSM cocktail wouldn’t do a thing for me, but I could take it if I felt like it.  I kept  drinking the magic pineapple potion twice a day until I used up the last packet.

I saved the elegantly scribed, poetic  diagnosis on the ivory stationery:
Trauma to the lower third of the left leg. Abundant harvest of hematomatic blood. Discontinue cardio aspirin for three weeks. Apply elastic bandage, rest, and elevate.

Four weeks later,  I danced at my nephew Nico’s wedding. I resumed yoga and swimming. I missed out on the last four days of my  Basilicata hike, but  came home with a good story.

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Last Sunday in July

Sun, then not-sun, clouds

then not-clouds,

warm, then not-warm.

This slender land can’t

make up its mind.

Cool breezes,

fungi of every color erupt–

red, colonies of chocolate brown,

or white, something you might

find in your salad.

Not much to do save

listen to Bill Evans ply the piano,

wrestle with the crossword,

turn off the phone.

 

   –Reprinted from Old Frog Pond

I Learned That Marilyn Had Died

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from the Little Patuxent Review, Summer 2016

Campanology

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CAMPANOLOGY
—Lynne Viti

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted from Mountain Gazette, Summer 2016 issue

 

Common Onion

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Lynne Viti

 

Reprinted from BlazeVOX Spring 2016

Planting Garlic

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

–Lynne Viti

 

Reprinted from BlazeVOX Spring 2016

 

 

 

 

Blood Moon

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

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

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

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

 

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Spring 2016 issue BlazeVOX

Ghazal

Ghazal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Lynne Viti

Reprinted from Blaze Vox, Spring 2016

Pâtissière

for Christine V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~Lynne Viti

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Weeding the Bittersweet”

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Sneaked in from Australia or Asia, settling
wherever it could, not minding poor soil,
rocks, sand, clay. Conquered woodland and garden.
We used to love the bright orange berries
popping from their yellow shells.
We used
to cut it
at the roadside.

Across her dashboard,
one of my housemates
strewed the stuff, the berries
would dry out and roll around, fall into our laps….

[Read the rest here].


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“How I Learned To Drive a Standard Shift, Without Tears…”

— Let out the clutch! Let out the clutch!

We were sitting at the top of the hill on the street where I grew up, suitably named Hilltop Avenue. My grandmother sold me her old Opel Kadett station wagon for a hundred and fifty bucks, and Dad appointed himself my driving instructor.

Dad’s instructional method was to yell when my response had to be quick. Though I was twenty-three, with years of driving experience, I felt like a clueless adolescent…..

You can read the full memoir essay on Silver Birch Press, published today.

Still Voting, After All These Years

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“I was one of four kids in Mrs. Well’s class at Hamilton Elementary School No. 236 to cast my vote for Adlai Stevenson in our fourth grade straw poll. Everyone but my three fellow Democrats and I wore “I Like Ike” buttons. Nobody wore a button that said “I Like Adlai.” Although my grandmothers, both staunch Republicans, liked Ike, I did not. I especially did not like his running mate, Dick Nixon. But then, I got my politics at the dinner table, from my dad.

A union man back in the ’30s when he worked at Bethlehem Steel, Dad voted for Stevenson even though he said the Illinois Democrat was an egghead…”

Read the rest here: my OpEd appeared  in the Baltimore Sun online, and in the Sunday Baltimore Sun‘s paper version on March 20. I urge you to comment online at the Sun on this opinion essay.

 

Crystal Hill Homestand

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(published in debut issue, March 2016, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing)

                                                                For Don

 

Post chemo, i.v.s, dull food, and infection,
from Boston you have travelled home to stay
for R & R, a good steak, and affection
from family, family dog, just for a day
or two or three, in which to laze in bed, but not
that metal hospital cot with sterile linens.
You might walk out on late summer grasses
or shuffle through the leaves, sort of beginning
to bask in autumn sunlight, turn your face
up to the sky, squinting against the rays
that slant onto the earth in this, your own place
not thinking long on next week. No, today’s
the day you want to sit and read the sports page,
reflect on what the odds are for your team,
listen to music, drink tea, begin to gauge
how much you’re loved, how great the stream
of life around you, going on quite as usual,
elections, wars, casinos, Nobel Prize
littering the front page. Soon, you’ll
nap and dream, and waking, will arise—

It’s good to leave the battle for a while
gather strength, breathe deeply, smile.

 

Tuesday After Labor Day

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[reprinted from The Basil O’Flaherty March 2016  issue]

 

 

Joey’s tacos, the bright green truck parked near the bay beach
has vanished overnight, regardless of whether  or not I craved
a chicken quesadilla. The forty bottles of hot sauces, each
sporting its own label boasting of heat hotter than any known—
all gone. There’s not even a mark in the grass where
the truck sat, where Joey leaned out and took your order.

Hard to believe that yesterday the three of us sat under
the Bradford pear tree, drinking lemonade or ginger ale
downing pork burritos layered with slaw, beans and rice.
The juice ran down our chins. We wondered how one man
could feed so many, what makes him work so hard,
cook so well. That afternoon seems weeks ago.

Town Pizza’s closed, though not the expensive women’s shop
that shares the old railroad depot.
Brown cardboard pizza boxes are stacked high in the window
but the place is dead—no smell of baking pies wafts from the door.
The transfer station no longer resembles a Richard Scarry book,
with pickups, Priuses, old Corollas lined up next to
the paper, plastic, glass bins. It’s just me and a man
whose black t-shirt reads, Keep Calm and Paddle.
We sullenly toss our plastics and tins into the green bin.

I don’t suppose the ice cream shop is open today.
I stop by the water hut and slip my quarters into the slot,
fill my empty plastic jugs one at a time, head home.
I glance at the Summer Chapel sign and wonder if
That’s done for the season, too.

But I have tomatoes, basil galore, beans, the third crop
of peppery arugula in the garden. The Italian flag still flies
from the potted rosemary bush on my stoop.
Low tide tomorrow at noon—one last swim in the sea.

~Lynne Viti

New poems: Baltimore Girls, Tuesday After Labor Day, Not Irish Enough

Three of my poems, “Baltimore Girls,” “Tuesday After Labor Day” [shoutout to Joey’s Tacos of Wellfeet  in this one] and “Not Irish Enough,” out today in The Basil O’Flaherty online lit mag, hereScreen Shot 2016-03-02 at 5.19.17 PMe

Burn Your Darlings

Cardboard box of old journals, notebooks
full of the ephemeral and the wannabe
profound, words I wrote for an audience—
the high school journal, read weekly by
Sister Seraphia, and later, words for my eyes only—
about unrequited love, loneliness after a breakup—

Dominique has two words of advice—
Burn them. She did, and found the fire Continue reading “Burn Your Darlings”

Gun Stories

This poem is reprinted from Damfino Press Journal, January 2016.

 

Outside the house the suitors line up,
a long queue of them, starting at dawn.
Each one with a gun.
I can see them from my bedroom window
—their handguns in holsters,
Or rifles slung over their shoulders
Like lawmen in my father’s tv westerns.

In town, the fire chief shot
His brains out with his service weapon.
It happened in his official car behind
The fire station on the main street.

I lost a friend over the guns her son
Brought back from the army, along with a crumpled
Marital history, and a taste for thebaine.

Once a black Luger was interposed
Between me and the hand that held it.
It was  pointed  at my father’s head, and then at me. The
Hand swept the gaze of the gun across the room.

The women have armed themselves, too.
Paper targets, then miscreants, then
intruders at the city gates
Overflowing into exurbia, the neighbors’ dogs–
Those go first, felled by your bullets. When there’s
No one left to shoot, your gun
Might be turned on you.

I know if I got my hands on one I’d drop
This embroidery, sneak out the back door,
go looking for a blacksmith.
I’d apprentice myself, I’d want
Nothing more than to hold the black gun
over the fire, pummel it.

You’d thank me for this.

 

 

 

Huge thanks to Danielle Georges, poet laureate of Boston, and the August 2015 poetry workshop participants, especially Martin Rodriguez, Francine Montemurro, Ellen Zelner and Chad Parenteau for critiquing an earlier version of this poem.  ~LV

New Year’s Day: Toward the Unknown

 

The year’s doors open
like those of language,
toward the unknown.
                                        ~ January First, Octavio Paz, trans. Elizabeth Bishop

 

This part of Cape Cod, past the elbow–but before the wrist joint—has yet to see a hard frost this winter. The arugula in our garden is green and edible, though most of it has bolted and  white flowers dot the tops of each green plant. Two intrepid calendula (pot marigold) bloom in the center of the garden—I find a tiny slug chewing away at one slender petal, flick him off, and bring the blooms inside to grace the dinner table. Leathery oak leaves the size of dinner plates line the crushed stone driveway and cluster around the stems of dead perennials: coreopsis, gaillardia,echinacea, rudbeckia. The pink heather blooms profusely on the hill behind the cottage. The calendar insists it’s early winter, but it looks more like early autumn on this  oddly warm year in new England. Continue reading “New Year’s Day: Toward the Unknown”

 Inclined Plane, Pulley, Wheel & Axle

For Mary Jane                                         

I studied the euthanasia coaster,
the Lithuanian artist’s drawings, the steep
first stage of the steel thing, the sharp
drop meant to cause hypoxia to the brain,
seven inversion loops, clothoids
designed to drive passengers into brain death.

At the end of the ride, said the
artist, they would unload—Unload!—the bodies Continue reading ” Inclined Plane, Pulley, Wheel & Axle”

Climate Change

 

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One Christmas, you broke in new roller skates
Soared down our  street’s white pavement
Flew onto a small front lawn to stop, because you had no brakes.

We took to the tennis courts at the park
In t shirts and shorts we worked on our serves, worked
up a sweat. It didn’t feel like Christmas.

Today’s like that, temperatures edging up to balmy,
roses in planters still blooming in the city– Continue reading “Climate Change”

The Stone in Your Chest

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I never want to walk through the black door you’ve negotiated,
Into the place where mothers bury their sons.
–You didn’t want to, either. You deserved years
of bonding, smiling at the way things turned out well after
the hard years, the impossible maze your adolescent traipsed.

No matter the cause, it’s the backwardness of it that
Makes no sense. It’s the years that knit us to the children, Continue reading “The Stone in Your Chest”

Boxing Day

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The very idea of servants had
faded altogether.
We stomped the cardboard shipping boxes that
arrived almost daily.

Sometimes I raced out to yell thanks
But the delivery van tore off down the street
I was left barefoot on the cold front porch
Feeling a bit foolish.

We stuffed the wrapping paper
and the twisted ribbon
into the metal trashbin in the garage,
forgot about it.

We reheated the casserole, Continue reading “Boxing Day”

We Called It Armistice Day

Reprinted from The Journal of Applied Poetics, December 2015

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WE CALLED IT ARMISTICE DAY

Until we didn’t—on parents day at school
Our teacher asked Does anyone know
the new name of this day–
I turned around and looked at
My father, sitting on a folding chair
leaning against his cane, he nodded to me– Continue reading “We Called It Armistice Day”

Christmas 1956

VITI

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 sweater, 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 Continue reading “Christmas 1956”

Early Morning in Kresson

 

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“While the neighborhood overall retains integrity of location and design, it generally lacks integrity of setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.–Maryland Historical  Trust Review

 

In my mind’s eye I see it—the stub of a macadam road
Dead-ending into Blue Diamond Coal, its trucks
Lined up each morning for the long hauls.
To the left, the junkyard, heaps of metal and rubber, hard by
An Italianate house, rust-brown, coated with years
Of dust and cinder ash, facing the junkyard cranes instead
Of a lawn. A porch swing, always vacant even on summer
Evenings. Only the metal cranes noticed.
The folks who lived in the house, white haired, plainly dressed
Bespectacled, came and went together, but mostly stayed home.
My father’s tavern sat amongst these places, the last
In a row of houses. In its former life, the bar
Housed a bakery, we heard—and the baker’s family
Lived upstairs in the cramped rooms, their  kitchen
The bakery itself. I used to pretend I could smell
Bread baking, the sweet fragrance of airy
White loaves turning golden in the long-gone ovens.
I went along with my father there before dawn,
the half-light bathing the block in sepia.
I sat at a small table in the back bar reading comics—
my father rolled kegs of beer up from the dank cellar.
Up on the ragged sidewalk I stood peering down
As he slid the keg into a handtruck, up a plywood Continue reading “Early Morning in Kresson”

Felus Catus

Athena /Tina 1994-2015
Athena /Tina
1994-2015


There were never such green and wide
Catseyes as our cat’s eyes.
The hearing went. Those eyes
stayed big and wide, attentive. The ears
were dappled pink and black inside.
She loved it when you grabbed them gently,
Squeezed, then released them.
She’d shake her head, then come back for more.
She climbed on your lap each night
rubbed against your book, your laptop.
We joked she thought you were her mother.
She cried all the way to the animal clinic.
She couldn’t hear herself.
Her weight had fallen by another half-pound.
We could see her skeleton under her three-colored coat.
We remembered when she was plump,
when she deposited voles and small rabbits
on the back stoop, little presents.
Lately she slept, made a running start for the bed, Continue reading “Felus Catus”

Salad Days

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We lived at home, were always home for dinner.
We thought we dressed like women
when we peeled off the school uniforms and slid into
plaid kilts, blouses with Peter Pan collars and circle pins,
loafers, on Friday night, for a church hall dance.
We thought we knew everything, though we only
knew everything about the things we read in books
or heard on the bus, or the street. We read Continue reading “Salad Days”

December 11: Sunset 4:13 PM /Catalog

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Inside: A Christmas cactus written off as finished, done,
Now ablaze with pink blooms.
A succulent dish garden stuck between dead and not-dead.
A Trader Joe’s orchid, leggy, elegant in its eight-bloom orchid hat. Continue reading “December 11: Sunset 4:13 PM /Catalog”