Campanology

images

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

 

DSCN1692_2

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

imgres

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