“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.

 

My poem, the Featured Spotlight in Amuse Bouche this week!

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.48.28 AMMy poem, “Photos of Your Daughter’s Wedding Under the Mandap, Not the Chuppa,” is the Featured Spotlight poem this week in Amuse-Bouche, a weekly online publication of Lunch Ticket lit mag, out of the Antioch L.A./MFA program. Shoutout to Barb Cohen Aronica Buck, whose daughter’s wedding photos inspired this poem that I wrote on the day of the San Bernadino shootings in December 2015.I’m honored to be published in this terrific journal.

 

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 me 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, 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,
fair, dark-eyed bride with bindi.
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.
He didn’t say to do what, but we knew now.

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, cell phones,
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, the pale bride,
her dark groom under the mandap,
the Jewish grandmother in a bright blue shawl.
A day of peace, utter joy under bright Connecticut sky—
—what we live for, who we are.

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