“November Sunset: 4:14 PM,” in Bear Review

I wrote this poem, a broken sonnet,  as part of a poem-a-day series I did last fall,  on the approach of the winter solstice. It appears online (and in print)  in Bear Review, out of St. Louis, Issue 3, Spring 2017.

November Sunset: 4:14 PM

As I cut the skinny branches of the smokebush
I hear a loud rattle in the sky. A black helicopter
descends, disappears. The noise of the chopper
carries from the playground at the end of the block.
I snip branches into small pieces, toss them
into the leaf bag with the rosebush clippings.
A woman walking by with her young daughters
tells me the helicopter med-vac’d someone,
deposited the accident victim with the EMTS.
The afterschool director ran out to investigate.
I drag the last leaf bag to lean against the retaining wall.
All that’s left alive: the rosemary, hellebore, a lone red cabbage.
The solstice approaches, a fixed point in the middle distance.
Inside, the black night shows itself in tall kitchen windows.

 

 

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”

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”

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

 

 

 

 

“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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Calendula, the (Deceptively) Humble Pot Marigold

Calendula Wellfleetia
Calendula Wellfleetia

It’s a warm, springlike day when we arrive at the cottage on the Friday before Thanksgiving, But one glance at the garden lets us know that in the three weeks since we’ve been here, the plants have suffered a frost. The last zinnias are withered and dried, their gray foliage stuck flat against the sticks that on our last visit here were living stems supporting pink and yellow blooms. The four o’clocks have died, too, as have the sturdy black-eyed Susans and the once-lacy leaved cosmos. The dahlias are brown and sad-looking, their stems mostly rotted away. We dig them up and stow them in the basement for the winter. The last of the small Japanese maple tree’s leaves have dropped. The nasturtiums have given up, too, and their seed pods are hardened. I pick as many as I can, to dry, for next year’s container gardens.

What’s left of our flowers is the calendula. Bright yellow, or deep orange, with lush green foliage, they line up in a row next to last crop of spicy arugula and four stunted-looking rainbow chard plants. Aside from the last half dozen carrots and the deep green parsley, everything else is either asleep for the winter—the garlic—or gone by.

Those calendula—now in a Beatles coffee mug on the dining table in the cottage, are the last blooms standing. We can’t bear to leave them behind when we go back to town, so they will have to come home with us tomorrow, and spend the week on our kitchen counter.

A cold rain fell steadily all day here, and tonight, the scattered leathery oak leaves are soaking, the first stage in a long process of decomposing. The calendula give us one last bit of summer 2015 in a Made in China mug.

Anti-inflammatory properties, useful as a dye, acne remedy, edible leaves for salads or tea infusions—is there no end to the talents of this humble flower?

Come next March when the Flower Show comes to Boston, I’ll be right back at the Hudson Seed Library booth to buy more packets of seed to grow more of those resilient, faithful ladies.

Shine On, Shine on, Harvest Moon, Supermoon, Blood Moon*

2015 pumpkin_0451The garden that was slow to produce this year has yielded two dozen juicy heads of garlic, many pole beans, two waves of tomatoes, endless basil and arugula, a steady supply of lettuce, 6 wizened bell peppers, three hot peppers, and a disappointing enormous vine with huge yellow flowers but blossom end-rot. The prize goes to the lone pumpkin, which appeared as a softball sized orb about two weeks ago, and by the time I cut it ten days later, it was enormous, at least by this gardener’s standards. Continue reading “Shine On, Shine on, Harvest Moon, Supermoon, Blood Moon*”

Ode to Our First Tomato of the Season

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Up here in New England, our weather’s not hot

So one ripe tomato is all that we’ve got.

We’ll slice it and give it an arugula bed,

A salad of deep green with one speck of red.

It’s mid-August now, and we promise, no  gripin’,

But let’s hope that the rest, all the  green ones will ripen.