“Lover’s Leap” and “Wellersburg Summer,” in The Writing Hour’s lit mag, “End of 83,” out of Baltimore

Just out!– online and available in print, at https://issuu.com/.

Both  of these poems appear here, on pages 11-13. These are part of my Cumberland series to be published this spring in my second book, The Glamorganshire Bible.

Girl at a Desk, Maryland Avenue School

She stares into the camera, no trace of a smile.
Her dark eyes look straight at you.
Not more than ten, thin, with a mass of dark ringlets.
Her white blouse hangs loose on her,
a hand-me-down from the half-sisters.

You can’t tell that she’s motherless,
lives with her father and the grandma,
lives in a crowded old house,
the three girls sleeping together,
this one stuck in the middle, not much room
but at least she keeps warm.

The classroom is empty, though it’s likely
the photographer lined up the children,
told each one to sit quiet while he looked
through the viewfinder, made them keep still,
clicked away until he’d captured them all—
boys who would go on to work in the tin mills,
or the Cumberland coal mines, where the pay
was good but the air would soon corrode the lungs,
early death was unavoidable.
Girls who would marry, have too many children,
who’d endure the hard times to come—
but that was a long way off, a decade ahead.

On that spring day of school pictures,
the teachers, all single women, lined up in rows
in front of the brick school for their picture,
standing at the exact midpoint of the two entrances
one proclaiming GIRLS, the other BOYS.
The photographer arranged the teachers by height,
the children stood on the narrow sidewalk,
giggling as the photographer said, “Say cheese, ladies!”
The teachers couldn’t stop laughing.  That was the day
the girl at the desk made a vow to be like them,
be one of them. She wrote the word in her copybook,

Teacher. Then, I will be a teacher. There might be
a husband, maybe children, maybe not.
She walked home in the bright afternoon light,
her plan, her wish pressed against her chest.

~Lynne Viti

Originally published  in October, 2017, in  This I Know, Warren Artists’ Market anthology

The Baltimore Day Express

I left the child with the mother-in-law,
just for a week. My bed was my sister’s sofa,
The coffee on the stove woke me up.
I never slept so well in all my life.
Before I knew it, I was served with papers, called
to court to answer the complaint—grounds of desertion.
They brought in a fellow who said he saw the kid
walking by herself down Baltimore Street on circus day,
with me nowhere in sight.
He said I’d been at breakfast at the Queen City Hotel
with a police sergeant. Another one swore I went camping
in mixed company down at Paw Paw.
Not long after, the judge handed down his order:
Divorce granted to Mister, grounds of desertion.
I didn’t care who knew, talk never bothered me much
but it seemed best to go down to Baltimore. There’d
be plenty of work for me there.
My sister saw me to the train, handed me the lunch
she’d packed, promised she’d watch out for my girl
till the day I got custody back.
From the train window I looked
at the tangle of tracks along Front Street.
The train pushed up the mountain, leaving
Cumberland trapped in the mist.
Dark puffs curled from the factory smokestacks.
I reached into my carpetbag for a magazine,
lost myself in the lives of Chaplin, Pickford,
dozed, their silver images flickering in my dreams.
By nighttime we reached the Mount Clare Station.
You could almost see the heat rise
from the cobblestone streets, the automobiles,
the horse-and-buggies jockeying for the right-of-way.
at my feet, a new city, all mine for the taking.

(c) 2017 Lynne Viti


Originally published in Warren Artists’ Market anthology, This I Know, October 2017







Two new poems of mine, in a new anthology, “I Come From the World”

I’m thrilled to be part of this new venture–and to have my poem alongside that of fellow Baltimorean and distinguished  poet Baron Wormser!

Read two of my poems , “The Glamorganshire Bible” and “The Kid: Cumberland 1923”–here:


Fashion Passion

This is not about Prada bags and Jimmy Choos,  little black dresses and pearls, about red lace-up Olaf Daughter boots from the ‘Seventies or what to wear to a job interview at a social networking start-up .

This is about the heart of  fashion.

 Fashion is not reacting to trends, not jumping at every new look, whether it’s belly shirts or babydoll blouses—which to me  look like old fashioned maternity clothes. No, fashion is  a way to control  the way we present ourselves to the world  and the way we are perceived  by  the faces that we meet, to borrow from T.S. Eliot.  We absorb our sense of fashion from many sources, some creative and liberating, others constricting or pedestrian. 

Part I:

Martha, Liza and Flo: Fur collars, bobs, pumps and ghillies

Cumberland, Maryland in the ‘Twenties

It really began with my grandmother. Extremely nearsighted, auburn haired, short and stout, she had four husbands—not all at once, but in succession beginning when she was nineteen, when she married my grandfather, a man nearly forty who’d alrady  left the detritus of one broken marriage behind him. My grandmother’s first marriage lasted three years—this coat lasted a great deal longer, and gave her more happiness, I think.

Florine, known as Flo— but let’s call her Mimi, as my sister and I  did—loved shoes and took particular pride in her small feet—size 4½. In this photograph of her with her sisters, Liza and Martha, she wears pumps, her favorite style that she continued to wear into her eighties. Mimi believed in investment pieces in her wardrobe, in taking up hems if you needed to, and in cutting the labels out of the back of blouses and sweaters—that way they would never stick up or scratch you. She preferred to have only a few classic, expensive pieces and she avoided fashion trends. Her clothes never seemed to wear out. Underneath, and she would not like it if she knew I were revealing this, she wore top-quality foundation garments—an underwire bra to support her ample bosom, and a pink corset to keep her looking fit and trim. Her stockings were held up by garters, even as pantyhose made their appearance in the 1970’s.

The photograph seems poised, almost professional in its composition. Mimi wears her usual expression in photographs—never smiling, always stern, looking straight at the camera. The sisters wear leather gloves and white silk scarves, probably to protect the fur from the body’s natural oils and the makeup they had only begun to wear a few years earlier. Maybe these fur-trimmed coats were an investment they made in the Roaring Twenties, in the years before the stock market crash of  ’29, but that’s doubtful, because of the coat lengths. In the 1970’s we would call these  Midis, something the fashion world tried to foist on American women. The Midi went the way of the Ford Edsel. Almost no one, short, tall, thin, zaftig, could carry it off.

It would be many years—fifty or sixty at least, before fur would become politically incorrect. Before a woman would come up to me on the Orange Line MBTA platform at State Street when I was seven months pregnant, and wearing a ratty raccoon coat my law school pal Susan had given me when she moved to Dallas. The woman approached me smiling, then spat the words at me—“ Warm fur, cold heart!” That was the day I stopped wearing the fur coat. After the baby was born, I folded the bulky coat into a black garbage bag with my maternity clothes and dropped it off at Goodwill.