“Two Mangy Apple Trees and a Lot of Love” – my opinion essay in the August 26, 2018 Baltimore Sun–

Four years ago, Tree Guy came out to give us an estimate for gypsy moth spraying. As long as you’re here, I said, take a look at these apple trees and tell me what you think.

The two small trees were decades old. The summer cottage’s previous owners who planted them had passed on years ago, and a series of residents and renters neglected the property. …

Read the rest here, in today’s Baltimore Sun online.apples 2018

“Home, at Last,” the poetry of Jackie Oldham

I encourage you to take a look at Jackie’s poem, published on her website, Baltimore Black Woman.

Anyone who has cared for  an aging parent until death will recognize the combination of grief and relief as the adult child reclaims her own life after the parent’s passing.

 

 

 

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Civics 101: The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, and Donald J. Trump–Journalists are NOT the Enemy!

I commend to all of you reading my blog today, the Boston Globe editorial, “Journalists are Not the Enemy.”

I write today in solidarity with American journalists who’ve been under a mounting attack by President Donald Trump,  in his  campaign against all those media outlets–and their writers–who criticize any aspect of his speechifying, social media claims and comments, programs, positions, behavior, or philosophy.

I support the Boston Globe and 300 other newspapers and media outlets of every political stripe, that today, August 16, have joined together to push back against the President’s claim that journalism is nothing more  than “fake news”  and “the enemy of the people.”

Freedom of the press is enshrined in our foundational document, the U.S. Constitution.

That is a fact.

Freedom of the press extends to all media outlets, no matter the editorial affiliation with political party.

That is a fact.

Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

Bill of Rights:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

~LSV

 

 

Walking at Day’s End

 

34e0f0dad2aa4cfb595664163e11d044-1Explain to me how the sea

puts parentheses around the years

since my father held my waist.

We jumped the waves,

and he sang off key to me.

So much time has stacked up

but I walk along at low tide,

the water here dotted with bits of red seaweed,

feel only the water and the sand,

walk over shells of small crabs, or parts of their legs,

till the water laps up again and I see only

foam at the water’s edges.

Show me why the sea is so like

old words on the page,

why I can read and reread a poem

its meaning constant

text embedded deep in my neurons

though life whirls me

from single to married

childless to primagravida

to mother of two

to mother of two grown, off in the world.

 

~Lynne Viti

 

Originally published in Poetry Pacific literary magazine

 

 

 

God’s Thief

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Art by Jeff Blum Copyright 2018

 

God sees me carry the stones from the seashore, smooth
gray rocks I cradle two at a time, pulling them close
to my belly, carrying them like the physical therapist said to.
If it’s against the law to carry these rocks home
to my garden, well then, I’m God’s thief.
God sees me snap off the forsythia branches, try
to speed up spring, make sunlight and  water
push out small green leaves, butter-yellow blooms.
They brighten my Spartan workroom.
God sees me out among the weeds and the damp spring soil
when I should be writing.
God knows the faces of our friends are drawn tight
in those last days before their bodies give out, their souls
still burning hard and bright in our memories.

If only God weren’t so silent, so distant with us,
if only God would pull up a chair, act like
a parent imparting advice, say, When I was your age,
Rome wasn’t built in a day, keep your friends close

I’ve gathered so many rocks now, each time wondering
when God will show God’s self, or give me a sign—
not a miracle exactly, but a perfect rose, then another,
a summer of roses, safe behind a wall of sea-smoothed rocks.

 

From The Glamorganshire Bible. 

To purchase a copy of this, my most recent poetry collection,  at a cost of  $12.99 , postage included, email me at lviti@wellesley.edu

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Mercy High School, Baltimore scholarship funds.

 

Abuse, Neglect, and the Catholic Church in Ireland: Letterfrack and its Lost Boys

This small village at the foot of the Connemara National Park was established by Quakers in 1949, the last year of the Great Hunger. James and Mary Ellis came here from England, as part of post-famine relief programs in Connemara.  They Ellises set up workshops for the denizens of this area, hoping to give people skills by which to earn a decent living. At the main crossroads of the town sits the site of the benighted St. Joseph’s Industrial School, where the ghosts of children seem to hover around the cemetery. The young boys of Letterfrack are commemorated by the poems of the Poetry Trail, carved into wooden plaques affixed to the town’s buildings, to stands along the walk, and to trees.  St. Joseph’s Industrial School, in operation from 1887-1974, was a site where hundreds if not thousands of Irish boys suffered harsh conditions, beaten and in some cases, sexually abused by the their teachers and wardens, the Irish Christian Brothers.

The building that warehoused these boys has been repurposed as a school for teenagers who have little interest in an academic secondary education, desiring instead to become skilled woodworkers. We wander through the National Centre of Excellence for Furniture Design and Wood Technology, on a quiet morning after the end of term. Finely hewn chairs, bookshelves, intricate coffee tables, side tables, chess boards and storage boxes sit ready for an exhibition and auction next week.

Nearby, atop a woods of trees with moss covered trunks, winding vines, and wild garlic, sits the small graveyard. Whether from disease–pneumonia, tuberculosis, whopping cough, diphtheria, rheumatic fever–or from malnourishment, or from severe beatings and exposure–the deaths of these young boys marked this ground. Exhaustive reports by the Irish national government relying on interviews, document analysis and forensic evidence, legal proceedings, the dismantling and closure of the old school, formal apologies issued by the Catholic Church and the Irish government under whose watch these things occurred–all these have been intended to achieve truth and reconciliation.

But it is the poets and artists who come closest to the truth about the suffering and loss of these children. Walking the Letterfrack Poetry Trail is more than a literary exercise–and reading the poems aloud in turn, as we did today, makes the past immediate. The heart-shaped grave markers atop old gravestones recite boys’ names, their birth and death date, their age on the day they passed from this life. Age 9, age 11, age 13. Born 1912, 1915, died 1922, 1925.

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The poets record the tiniest, most poignant details: the boy who when they knew “there were in for it,” cried Mammy, Mammy, Mammy” in a low murmur like a prayer. The boy who carried a cardboard suitcase when he came up from Dublin after getting in trouble with the law, perhaps for stealing a bicycle. The dead child whose comrades mourned his broken back and his empty hands.

We walked the poetry trail, swatting away persistent Connemara midges and taking turns reading the poems aloud. The cloud cover gave way in the late afternoon to sun. We wandered into the tables outside the Park’s tearoom, where we sipped tea and talked about Irish poets who lately had died in old age. We talked about our host’s son, a mortgage broker Chicago, and about mackerel fishing in Clifden, nearby. We did not speak about the graves, or even of the poems on wooden plaques that dot the poetry trail. This was the fourth day in a row that the sun was shining brightly in Connemara, and we liked to think we’d brought the fine weather with us from Northern America.

As we neared St Joseph’s Church on our way back down the road, Joe pointed out one last poem—not part of the poetry trail collection per se, but nonetheless an important testimony: “Graveyard,” by the late Irish poet Richard Murphy, who died last January after a long and illustrious career. Murphy’s words, inscribed in white painted script on a black background, call to mind chalk on a school blackboard, what in other contexts would be a benign symbol of the classrooms in past days.

Graveyard- Richard Murphy Poetry trail

Murphy’s words are chilling, and they’ve stuck with me long after we have moved on from Letterfrack up the coast to Achill Island, then double back to Louisburgh, where the good sunny weather of the past ten days turns, and we hear the high wind and steady rain rattling the cottage windows.  Safe and dry in our cottage, we watch the last of the peat fire burn into embers, and call it a night.

Letterfrack Industrial School

Bog-brown glens, mica schist rocks, waterfalls
Gulching down screes, a rain-logged mountain slope
With scrawny pine trees twisted by mad gales,
They see from my ball-yard, and abandon hope.

Wild boys my workshops chasten and subdue
Learn here the force of craft. Few can escape
My rack of metal, wood, thread, hide: my screw
Of brotherhood: the penny stitched in a strap.

Podded in varnished pews, stunted in beds
Of cruciform iron, they bruise with sad, hurt shame
Orphans with felons, bastards at loggerheads
With waifs, branded for life by a bad name.

One, almost hanged in my boot-room, has run free
Dressed as a girl, saved by a thieving gipsy.

 ~Richard Murphy

 

 

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

Viti-Lynne-The-GLamorganshi-web-600x600

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.

 

 

1964: “Nickel Dreams”

As I write this I’m en route to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station by a train moving south along the Eastern coast. Many years ago, while still in high school, I traveled north to Philly, and in this poem from my 2017 collection, Baltimore Girls (Finishing Line Press) , I recall my solo first train journey  to visit my friend Marcus W. “Mike” Moore, at Haverford College on the Main Line.

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 –
not as high as I expected.

The blackened piles of snow
all melted away, roof rakes,
ergonomic shovels, the chemicals
we strewed on sidewalk and porches.
Mere memories of winter.

The sun strains to appear.
It warms the day but I can hardly
see my shadow, perhaps only  faint
suggestions of a shadow, a darkening,
barely perceptible.

On a day like this, full of spring’s promise,
I cut an armful of jonquils from my mother’s garden
wrapped them in newspaper, a cone
around the butter yellow blooms
so fragile, their stems easily snapped or bent.

Go to 30th Street Station, Mike said, for the transfer
But watch out if you’re there right at six, when
the dogs are let off their leashes,
dogs in gray flannel suits, carrying
smart leather briefcases. I understood.
He loved to quote Dylan: I don’t want to be
A singer in the rat race choir.

As I rose near my stop on the Paoli local
an old man glanced at my flowers.
I withdrew one and handed it to him,
without a word, hopped off at Haverford.
Mike stood on the platform, his long scarf
artfully draped around his neck,
tweed sport coat festooned
with buttons of Lenin, Freedom Now, Stokely
Carmichael. We walked through the campus,
his arm around my shoulder.

This will be my life, I thought.
His roommates were out. We
skipped dinner, built a fire. We
Talked about the war, about Yeats.
When it was late and
we were so hungry we couldn’t stand it
we strolled to the Blue Comet
for the cheeseburgers—I can remember
even now how good they tasted.

We took the back way to the women’s college
—I‘d set up camp in the guest lounge.
Mike kissed my cheek, handed me a nickel
the Paoli local had flattened into an oval,
Washington’s head all distorted.
I carried it  around for years,
that talisman of my life to come.