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Shoutout to Amal Cheema for her NPR Opinion Essay, “An Appeal To Youth To Face Coronavirus With Self-Sacrifice, Not Selfishness”

I’m proud to acknowledge this Opinion essay by my former student, Amal Cheema, published in the NPR “Goats and Soda” online blog.

“Within the past few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed my plans and expectations for my first year of medical school. It has canceled trips and internships. It has moved classes and social interactions online, dissolving my community as I knew it.

As a healthy, 20-something, I know that if I contract COVID-19, I am less likely to die than older adults like my parents or those with preexisting conditions.

So why should teens and 20-somethings give up hanging out with friends? Why should we let a virus dictate our lives?…”

Read the full essay here .

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Songs of Self-Isolation Series # 5, with Guest Poet Jacqueline Oldham –

Just Another Covid-19 Saturday: The Silent Hours (Or How I Remembered the Day), 3:38 PM

Beyond these walls and windows,
only rare noises break in.

In my home, where I have lived
alone for 26 years,
I keep Silent Hours,
to hold the world at bay.

The stray wail of a dog.

A car engine revving
as a neighbor
drives through the block.

A car door slamming
as the neighbor returns home.

Birdsong does not penetrate.
At least, not during the day.

Except for the coo, at dawn,
of a mourning dove
whose nest was once
my side porch light.

And only in the darkest hours
might a hoot owl’s call
pierce the night.

But these sounds of life
are not the ones that disturb me.

Rather, it’s the toxic noise
of the tv that threatens
to destroy me.

Within these walls,
the only sounds welcomed

are the metronome
of the clock,
the click of the
gas-fueled pump
that sends now-needed heat
through the radiators,
the periodic hum
of the refrigerator. Not even the shrill bell
of the telephone
sounds today.
Telemarketers and scammers alike
are at rest.

Jacqueline (Jackie) Oldham lives in Baltimore, Maryland. A poet and editor, she blogs at https://baltimoreblackwoman.com/

Jackie and I met online via her blog and my comments on it, and a few years ago we met in real life when I read at “Readings With Ralphie,” the Bird-in-Hand coffee shop near the Hopkins Homewood campus, a series produced by Baltimore journalist and author Rafael Alvarez. Since then, Jackie and I have read together on Michael Anthony Ingram’s internet radio program, “Quintessential Listening: Poetry” and hope to read together in the future. Fun fact: one of Jackie’s classmates at Western High School back in the day was my younger sister’s best friend, Lenore, at Hamilton Elementary # 236 and Junior High # 41. ~LV

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Songs of Self-Isolation, Day Four, by poet Robbie Gamble

Covid Dolor

    –with apologies to Theodore Roethke (See Roethke poem at the bottom of the page)


I now know the inexorable sadness of linguini
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pinto bean and tomato paste
All the misery of canned tuna and oatmeal
Desolate and shelf-stable in the reorganized pantry,
Lonely classroom, bistro, sparse subway car,
The unalterable pathos of a Purell dispenser,
Ritual of telecommute, earbud, out-of-office reply,
And I cannot see the viral particulates ignored
By our institutions, finer than silica, made more
Dangerous by their prevarications, rending us divisible,
Sifting through these new afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film into our mucus membranes,
Glazing his orange hair, his duplicitous acolytes.
  

Dolor 

by Theodore Roethke

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.


Robbie Gamble’s work appears in The Atlanta Review, RHINO, Whale Road Review, and Rust + Moth.  He holds an MFA in poetry from Lesley University, and works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.  

                             

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At the Grocery Store, Quarantine

I           We have been told to stay a safe distance from others—

            six feet minimum

II          Strangers peer at one another, then look away—evaluating

            the risk, per se

III         We have been reminded not to touch freezer handles, or

            grocery carts with our bare hands

IV         Some people wear blue or white gloves—all toilet paper has

            vanished—signs limiting us to two per family

V          Preside over empty aisles—in our minds, regular life has vanished,

            reduced to what is elemental, human—

VI         Differences not erased but magnified as we glance around—

            estimating our chances of staying alive—

VII        Invisible virus droplets coursing everywhere through the air.

~Heather Corbally Bryant

Heather Corbally Bryant teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently, Leaving Santorini (Finishing Line Press 2019)

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Sogno della pandemia italiana (Dream of the Italian Pandemic)


The silence strips bare: 1
corridors of my heart with strangers running in them, shouting. The precise 2
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d; 3
These many crowded about me; with shouting, 4
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 5
More flaming horrors, but now it is fate, not will; not 6
with bitterness…but no, as though 7
there were so many, many 8
And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd, 9
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors, 10
Methinks already from this Chymic flame. 11
Each night, I knelt on a marble slab 12
All to gather the dead and the down. 13
not echoing but varying after the lives 14
The sad historian of the pensive plain. 15

~Gina Maranto

Notes/Citations

1 Adrienne Rich, Cartographies of Silence
2 Diane Wakoski, Sestina From The Home Gardener
3 Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man: Epistle II
4 Ezra Pound, Canto I
5 Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
6 Robinson Jeffers, Greater Grandeur
7 Denise Levertov, Life At War
8 Edward Dorn, If It Should Ever Come
9 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dejection: An Ode
10 William Cowper, Hate and Vengeance, My Eternal Portion
11 John Dryden, London After the Great Fire, 1666
12 Gregory Orr, Gathering the Bones
13 Gary Snyder, Getting in the Wood
14 W.S. Merwin, Night Singing
15 William Goldsmith, The Deserted Village

Gina Maranto is a senior lecturer at the Abbess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at University of Miami. Her articles, opinion pieces, and reviews have appeared in Discover,The Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, The New York Times, and other publications. She is author of Quest for Perfection (1996), a history of attempts to alter birth outcomes and a critique of new reproductive technologies.

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Songs from the Self-Isolation in the Time of COVID-19

In the spirit of creativity and community, I invite anyone interested in contributing a poem or song lyric to this blog to send me their work in the body of an email to me at lviti@wellesley.edu.  I’ll post one work each day: Haikus, sonnets, ghazals, villanelles, rhymed couplets, sestinas, tanks, golden shovels, odes, ballads, clerihews, eclogues, epigrams, rubaiyats, pantoums, free verse….and more. Send an image of at least 1200 by 600 pixels to accompany your poem.

Quarantine in a time of an outbreak of disease is nothing new. Here’s what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 2910 when he was quarantined in 1920 in he south of France, during an outbreak of the Spanish Flu:

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I look forward to your participation in this ongoing project, whether you’re an experienced poet or lyricist, or a novice. Include a short (25 word) bio with your submission, to lviti@wellesley.edu.

Huge thanks to Gina Maranto for suggesting this idea.

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Like You, I’m Walkin’ in the Time of Covid-19

As two people in the higher risk category for contracting COVID-19 due to our age, my spouse and I have begun to walk daily, since we haven’t been able to go to the yoga studio or the YMCA Pilates classes (me) or the town swimming pool (him). We’ve encountered strangers, neighbors , and people we sort-of-recognize from living in our town for over two decades.

So far we have walked to and from the CVS and Post Office, around our neighborhood and onto the grounds of the yoga studio and meditation hall center on Gay Street, at Hale Reservation on the other side of our town, in Needham, a town adjacent to ours, in Ridge Hill Reservation (though we still have not found the B-63 Nike Missile Site–that’s for next time). Today, l’ll walk (six feet apart) with my friend Linda, and maybe discuss what contingency plans may be taking shape for her two adult children’s forthcoming big weddings in July.

I can’t stop myself from adding to my list of “the last time we…” I already miss the museum (last things we saw were murals, a Jacob Lawrence exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, and the last live music we heard was the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Tanglewood chorus at Symphony Hall in Boston. I miss in real life church (last liturgy on March 8), and in real life Ann’s Bossy Book Club (last discussion, March 8, and the book was Curtis Sittfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say it.

I’m learning to use Zoom for everything from the fundraising meeting for my college alma mater to yoga classes from my favorite studio.

And, of course, I’m hand washing, lots of it, and now I’m substituting folk songs, chorus and all verses, for “Happy Birthday.” And thinking of /hoping for what our rector quoted in a recent letter to parishioners, a well known quote from St. Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

And I keep on walking, thankful for these sunny late winter days.

Author’s note, 5:15 PM ET: I’ve just learned how to use Zoom on an hour-long conference call and found it very easy!

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In Praise of Pasta alla Norma in the Time of Covid-19

DRAFT

In Praise of Pasta alla Norma in the Time of Covid-19

Salty, infused with minced anchovies and eggplant

married to tomatoes and good olive oil

the rust-colored sauce reminds us of Sicily,

our walks up the mountains and hills between

Enna and Cefalù, on ancient drove roads in the heat

through villages where only the old have stayed,

where locals offered to sell us a house for a pittance

if we’d only pay the back taxes and fix the place up.

Twice, our hostess says almost as an apology,

It’s a vegetarian meal tonight.  No need—

the short tubes of pasta enrobed in sarsa,

ricotta salting the dish beyond what we normally permit

smell of earth and sun.

Fresh baked crusty bread, a salad,

and pasta alla Norma: tonight

we soften the lines of our self-imposed quarantine,

we’re transported back to Catania that May

when we emerged from the airport terminal

into the warm night, looking to fill our bellies, our souls

with food for a king, composed like an aria

from stuff of the ancient Sicilian earth.

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Poetry Sunday on WCAI Cape & Islands Radio–“Walking at Day’s End”

I was honored to be invited to read one of my poems on the local segment of “Weekend Edition Sunday,” on the Woods Hole NPR affiliate, WCAI-FM, this past Sunday, February 23.

You can read the poem and hear me read it, here. You can also search for the two of my other poems I read on air in 2019 and 2018, on the WCAI Poetry Sunday website.

Lynne Viti lives and writes in Wellfleet and Westwood, MA. She is the author of Baltimore Girls (2017), The Glamorganshire Bible (2018), Going Too Fast (forthcoming 2020), Finishing Line Press, and Dancing at Lake Montebello (forthcoming 2020), Apprentice House Press. She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the WOMR/Joe Gouveia Poetry Contest (2018, 2019, 2020), and was nominated for the Mass. Book Award in 2017 and 2018.    

Forcing Spring in [Late] Winter

If the roses or red tulips you were lucky enough to  receive on Valentine’s Day  have by now dropped their faded petals and you’re longing for something springlike in your kitchen, considering bringing the outdoors inside.

Forsythia, Daphne,  pussy willow, azalea, flowering quince, magnolia, witch hazel—all of these can be forced, giving you a preview of spring to come.

The last week of February and the first week or two of March, if temperatures are still under 50F, are good ones for cutting branches for forcing.  Once you cut the branches you want to force, it will take from two to three weeks for blooms to appear.  So, get started. Real Spring is less than a month away.

I carry a pair of garden slippers in my pocket when I go on long walks, in case I come across a roadside shrub or woodland plant that looks like it might be worth experimenting on. But I’ve had the best luck with forsythia and magnolia from my yard.  This year I’m trying azalea, too.

Here’s a good guide for forcing.

I usually use a hammer or rock to smash the ends of the cuttings. I have no idea who advised me to do this, as I’ve been forcing forsythia for decades, but I suspect it may help the cuttings pull up water faster.

You can’t hurry love, as the Supremes wisely sang, but you can certainly hurry spring–in a small way.

Or, you could shell out twelve bucks  or more for ready-forced cuttings at your local Whole Foods or corner open air produce shop in the city.

Chef’s Kvetsch: Challenges Posed By Dinner Guests with Food Allergies, Intolerance, Dietary Restrictions and Narrow Palates

restaurant-57e2dd4749_340

The text responses to “any allergies?” roll in.

No mango, no orange vegetables.

No pintos, no black beans, no kidney beans, no fava beans.

No broad beans, soybeans, no wax beans .

No squash, no carrots, no pumpkin.

No broccoli, no rapini  no sushi , no kimchi.

No shellfish, no canteloup, no gluten.

No dairy, no salt, no peanut butter–

a hundred things people don’t like, won’t eat, or can’t–

Guess we should be grateful for

meat and chicken, for butter lettuce,

russet potatoes,  fin fish.

For gluten free bread, honey

egg whites and carob.

Soy/oat/almond/coconut milk.

How long’s this been going on,

and why? Should we ask guests to

brown bag it, bring what they can– and will–consume?

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NEW MONIKER, NEW URL: Stillinschool is changing its name to LYNNE VITI.WORDPRESS.COM

If you don’t currently subscribe and receive posts directly, consider doing so by clicking on the blue WordPress Icon “Follow Lynne Viti” button at the bottom of this page.

If you prefer not to jam up your In-box, bookmark any page on this blog that is dated February 14, 2020 or later to save this new url.

Thanks for sticking with me!

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In the deep of winter, take in nature’s subtle presentation

By Lynne Viti

Published in the Cape Cod Times

Feb 1, 2020 

“… if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
– Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind”

Everything looks deader than Jacob Marley when the ground is bare in these cold days after the shiny new year begins to tarnish a little. …

to read the essay in its entirety, go to:

https://www.capecodtimes.com/opinion/20200201/in-deep-of-winter-take-in-natures-subtle-presentation?template=ampart

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Buffalo Check: It’s A Thing.

Martin-Garcia family, 3 generations 2019
Jean and Steve Martin of Perry Hall, Maryland, with their adult children and grandchildren: the Garcias of Perry Hall, the Garcias of Chicago, and the Walraths of Baltimore. Photo credit: Meghan Walrath
 

 

“It’s a thing,” I told my husband, when we opened the second holiday card featuring a photo of an extended family, all sporting red and black checked pajamas. “It’s Buffalo plaid.”

He looked confused. “Buffalo plaid,” I repeated. “It’s all the rage with grandparents this year. They require their adult children and grandchildren to dress in it for the annual holiday card photo.”

He wondered aloud if this was something all grandparents do these days.

“Maybe not all, but a lot of them,” I said. I gestured to the two photographs in our mounting stack of holiday cards. Each featured large extended families supporting this year’s popular uniform.

Curious, I did a little research, consulting the official Woolrich Company site, as well as various history, design and fashion sources. Here’s what I learned: John Rich II, an immigrant to the United States from England and a partner established a woolen mill in Pennsylvania in 1830.http://pabook2.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Woolrich.html He often traveled to lumber camps and farms in the mountains of central Pennsylvania selling woolen cloth and yarns from a mule-drawn cart. In 1845, Rich built a woolen mill near Chatham Run in Pine Creek Township. Many of Rich’s early customers worked in the lumber industry in the area, and they were good consumers of socks and clothing from Rich’s mills.

During the Civil War, Woolrich supplied the Union army with blankets, and today, the company continues to manufacture blankets and fabric in its Pennsylvania factory. By the turn of the century, more and more people began to enjoy outdoor leisure activities. Woolrich responded to this burgeoning market, turning out wool shirts, jackets and caps. The Woolrich factory was destroyed by fire in 1901, but was immediately rebuilt, and by 1917 was manufacturing blankets for American armed services in the first world war. https://www.woolrich.com/history-of-woolrich

But where did this distinctive large black and red check pattern originate? There are a few competing theories. On its company website, Woolrich says the designer of the iconic plaid owned a herd of buffalo, and thus used the name for his brainchild. But the design actually had its roots in the 18th century. A popular fabric design featuring checks — large squares of equal size in all directions, sort of a giant version of gingham — was a favorite of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George II I— yes, Hamilton aficionados, that King George. The Queen liked the pattern so much she had chairs, sofas and bedcovers done up using the large checked material, and soon it was known as Queen Charlotte’s Check — a far cry from the woodsy, down-home moniker of Buffalo Plaid. https://www.hgtv.com/design/decorating/design-101/trending-now–buffalo-check

And some claim that the red-and-black plaid was the Rob Roy tartan, dating back to Clan MacGregor in Scotland. The pattern may have made its way to America by way of Jock McCluskey, a Scottish immigrant to Montana. This would  explain why native Americans adopted the tartan and wore it into battle for good luck.https://www.worthingtoncorners.com/blogs/editorial/the-history-of-buffalo-check

The Woolrich Company not only survived during the Great Depression, it thrived. In 1939, its products — over a thousand of them — traveled to the Arctic with Admiral Byrd on three separate expeditions. And when the United States entered World War II, Woolrich again profited from U.S. government contracts for blankets, stockings and coats. The company partnered with WP Lavori in Corso, Italy in 1998, went global in 2016, and is now known as Woolrich International, after fusing its American and European companies. At its helm today is Nicholas Brayton, a seventh generation descendant of John Rich. That’s an impressive mercantile legacy. https://www.woolrich.com/history-of-woolrich

So when you deck your grandchildren out in those red-and-black Buffalo Plaid pajamas for the annual holiday photo or order Buffalo plaid outfits for your big family reunion this summer, you can take advantage of your grandparent status by telling them the story of John Rich, entrepreneur, or if you prefer— capitalist, war profiteer, and merchant chief.

This Commentary originally appeared in the Baltimore Sun, December 31, 2019.

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Christmas 1956, Redux

I’m reposting this poem from 2015, at a reader’s request.  Photo by Marcella Spigelmire, most likely. Place: Oakcrest Avenue, Baltimore, our old apartment.

Christmas 1956

 

My father opened his wallet to show me

a hundred dollar bill.

I thought he was rich, and said so.

Naw, he answered and carefully

slid the crisp paper  back into its leather sleeve.

 

Christmas morning

my sister and I opened box after box.

Angora sweaters,  knee socks

Ricky Nelson LP for me,

roller skates for her.

 

My mother gave Dad pajamas,

socks, a hand warmer gadget

for Colt games at Memorial Stadium.

 

When it was all over

paper detritus littering rose-colored carpet,

Dad pointed to the back of the  Christmas tree

wedged against the long drapes

at the picture window

so the colored lights were on display

for all of Hilltop Avenue to see.

 

Merry Christmas, Mom, he said quietly.

My mother jumped up, almost

tripping over her long robe,

laughed when it came into her view,

that hundred dollar bill, clipped to the tree

by a Shaker clothespin.

 

Not for paying the bills, Dad said.

Now Mom was rich.

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The Friday Night Irregulars

 

 

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Snow predicted, sun vanished today earlier

than usual.  At the Post Office, technology stalls,

Jim the counterman says no credit, only debit—

I mail a first class envelope full of poems,

 

aimed southwards, where they have Continue reading

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Christmas Revels: A Cantabrigian Tradition

greenman

Last night, four of us gathered at an Indian restaurant in Harvard Square for a delicious, spicy meal, then trekked across Harvard Yard to Memorial Hall, for Christmas Revels, this year, an American celebration, with music from Appalachia, George Sea Islands, New England and the American South.

There was a brass band, a concertina, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and the standard Revels elements: the sword dance, the mummer’s play where John Barleycorn must die and return to life, the audience and performers  singing of “Dona Nobis Pacem”and the Sussex Mummer’s Carol. Led by the reliable and energetic David Coffin, this year’s troupe included  some talented young cloggers and singers. the soloists were uniformly gifted:  soloist Carolyn Saxon, super-talented banjo and guitar duo Sqiurrel Butter (Charmain Slaven sings, clog dances, and plays guitar, usually two of these simultaneously!),  banjoist/singerJake Blount. Memorial Hall filled with music, song, and
dance.

Experiencing Christmas Revels (and oh, the chance to sing with a hall full of performers and audience!)  is   a perfect way to mark the shortest day, and to welcome  Yule. And soon,  to bid farewell to the Teens, and on to the new decade. Continue reading

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“Greenwich Mean Time”

My poem, “Greenwich Mean Time,” appears in the latest issue, # 64.2, of Westerly: New Writing from Western Australia. Thank you to Westerly for publishing my work, and for paying me as well!

Greenwich Mean Time

In a time of a war halfway across the world—
a war we didn’t want, one spurred by old men,
we fled the city, taking our books and music,
our bed and a secondhand table.

In my grandmother’s station wagon
up the Henry Hudson Parkway we rattled along
into Westchester onto the Merritt,
everything we owned stuck in boxes or pillowcases.

We settled into a rented flat over a garage.
The kitchen windows admitted the morning light.
We eschewed meat, discovered tofu, kasha, spinach noodles,
dined on garbanzo beans and cashew butter.

Our paychecks covered rent and gas, groceries,
food for the cats we brought home from the pound,
a calico and a black one who sucked his paw when he dozed.
we drove slowly down Catrock Road in snow.

The city seemed so distant. The birds that stayed
all winter darted from one naked branch to the next.
Weekends, we lay in bed till ten, reading the paper,
nestled against each other under the emerald spread.

You hadn’t found work. In December you sold
Christmas trees from a Port Chester lot, freezing your hands,
so used to office work, the telephone, the foolscap pads.
There were quarrels over nothing, or over money.

We sold the motorcycle to pay the oil bill.
We missed the museums, the subway,
the long walks from midtown to home, the newsstands,
the confectionery with chocolate Florentines.

We missed the faces of people we passed on the street,
Everyone in suburbia was white, with perfect teeth.
Everyone seemed happy with the way things were going,
in the town, in the country, in the broken world.

park-snow-scene-with-stone-bridge-stock-images_csp33681354

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Ocean City Memories

Esskay clock, Ocean City boardwalk, 1960’s.

(skit performed by  the Hon. Carol E. Smith in her younger days, as Commander Whitehead, and some other class of ’64 girl, Mercy High School, Baltimore, circe 1963–parodying a Schweppes TV commercial of the era)

Unnamed MHS ’64 girl: Been away, Commander?

Whitehead: [with impeccable British accent] Not really. Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon….Ocean City.

[hysterical laughter from all-school assembly — the first two MHS classes, ’64 and ’65)

An excerpt from one of the stories in my debut prose collection, Going Too Fast:

“What every Baltimore teenager longed for was an unchaperoned week in Ocean City with friends. Lots of friends. Six to a hotel room meant for two. Coke or coffee and doughnuts for breakfast, and maybe a slice or two of pizza for lunch. Dinner was on the fly, as well— takeout or a Dairy Queen burger. There was beer. Lots of it.  And there was sex—or what passed for it. The girls didn’t talk about it much, but you knew, or thought you did, what a girl was up to. The guys might’ve been just as secretive, or else they could’ve exaggerated how far they’d gone.   Most of us had to wait until we had graduated from high school to get permission to go to the beach unchaperoned. ..” ~from “Tony Bennett, Aldous Huxley, and Eddie”

 

 

If this looks interesting to you consider pre-ordering the book, from https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/going-too-fast-by-lynne-viti/?fbclid=IwAR3ZvOppiQoW8Xzn1R_p7Ke8JNRPnnkOxxOAjyfeT5FWykzKj05CpisLn8w

Pre-orders dictate the pressrun. Books will be shipped in mid March 2020.

And proceed=s from the sale of my author’s copies (which can number 25-50 depending on preorder totals), go to Mercy High development fund.

 

 

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For Love of Compost

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Many years ago, Joseph  Hudak, an author and  landscape designer who was a frequent patron at our local public library—where my husband worked—gave me some valuable advice about gardens and leaves, at the house we’d just moved into. One, make sure that in spring, summer and fall, at any moment, something is in bloom in the garden, Continue reading

 

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When our children were young, our Thanksgiving ritual never varied. We piled into our station wagon with the kids’ favorite toys and Rosenshontz CDs to amuse them on the ride to my in-laws’ house in Rhode Island. Without fail, my mother-in-law would greet us at the door, always wearing a handmade apron. The fragrance of roasting turkey and freshly baked apple and pumpkin pies permeated the house.

But the first order of business was lunch – homemade pizza, its crust thick and light, with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. It was hard to stop after two slices. Continue reading

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My debut short story collection-GOING TOO FAST–now available for pre-ordering

VITI-LYNNE-GOING-WEB

Going Too Fast by Lynne Viti

$19.99

Advance Reviews for Going Too Fast

Going Too Fast is a masterfully composed collection of distinct but interrelated stories whose characters teeter on the fine edge between adolescence and adulthood. With arresting attention to detail, humor, and poignancy, Viti’s stories of love, loss, friendship, and family will resonate long after you’ve read them.

–Anne M. Brubaker, Wellesley College

The stories in Going Too Fast are both poetic and truthful, as Viti weaves together the prosaic and the extraordinary.  In so doing, she moves her readers in and out of time. Like her characters, the stories have their feet in two worlds. Like a “tightrope artist,” the author delights, provokes, and entertains her readers in this shimmering new collection.

–Heather Corbally Bryant, Wellesley College, author, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper

“In these beautifully crafted stories, Lynne Viti lets readers effortlessly enter the world of the characters – whether it’s a 1960’s Manhattan college campus or the “wide cinder stub of a road” in Baltimore. Readers will appreciate Viti’s impeccable use of detail, her clear language, and the even-tempered, retrospective tone of her prose. These stories resonate; they stick around like fragments and figures of one’s own past.”

–Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Author of The True History of Paradise and The Pirate’s Daughter

$19.99, full-length, paper

RESERVE YOUR COPY TODAY

Lynne Viti‘s recent publications are Baltimore Girls (2017), The Glamorganshire Bible (2018), Finishing Line Press,  and microchapbooks Punting (2017) and Dreaming Must Be Done in the Daytime (2019),Origami Poems Project.  She received Honorable Mentions in the WOMR/Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest (2018 and 2019). She blogs at lynneviti.wordpress.com.

 To order, go to https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/going-too-fast-by-lynne-viti/

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Judgment

images

Two nights after
the president was shot
my mother went out.

She put on silver blue eyeshadow.
She wore her Persian lamb jacket
with the mink collar.

It was the year
she was having the kitchen redone.
The house was in disarray.

I sat on our brocade sofa.
I watched
the small black and white tv.
It sat in a temporary place
atop an end table.

I watched
the news replay
Jack Ruby shooting Oswald.

A boy I thought I liked came by.
I didn’t like the way
he chugged from the green Coke bottle,
swished it around like mouthwash
before he swallowed.

I never forgave my mother.
I wanted her to sit
on the sofa with me
and cry.

 

 

— from my first poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, Finishing Line Press, 2017

To order: Baltimore Girls,  go to

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1635341701/ref=tmm_pap_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=&sr=

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  • Signed by the author and can be inscribed to you or your recipient

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Murphy in August

My poem was inspired by a social media post from Richard Murphy announcing his impending retirement. Richard, Gloria, Dan and my sister Anne were housemates on Reynolds Road in Danbury, when they were students at Western Connecticut State, in the ‘Seventies. “Murphy in August” appears in the latest issue of the Muddy River Poetry Review, and you can read it here.

 

Note: According to wikipedia, the Muddy River is a series of brooks and ponds that runs through sections of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, including along the south boundary of Brookline, Massachusetts (which formerly was known as Muddy River Hamlet before it was incorporated in 1705).

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Amy Rigby, post-punk singer- songwriter–and now, memoirist– with a lot of attitude, at the Parlor Room in Northampton

 

 

Chicagoreader.com

 

When I woke up today I had a song in my head
I wanna wanna wanna go home
They played it last night when I was dancing with Joey Ramone

My husband turned me on to Amy Rigby, a sort of post-punk singer songwriter with a lot of attitude and irony in her lyrics. He had first heard about her from the esteemed and quirky rock critic Robert Christgau. Listening to Rigby’s songs for the past few years, I’ve come to love her outrageousness and her insight into herself and the difficult maneuvers women make when dealing with men, children, love, work, and — well, life. Continue reading

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I’m back!

Hunkering down these past weeks to write.

Check out poetry super highway this week–I’m one of two poets of the week, and my poem “Biography” is published on the site. Baltimore -born readers especially, you might find this resonates with you.

http://poetrysuperhighway.com/psh/category/poets_of_the_week/

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I read my poem “Leftovers” on WCAI-FM Cape & the Islands Radio today–I invite you to listen here:

WCAI Cape and the Islands

https://www.capeandislands.org/post/poetry-sunday-lynne-viti-0?fbclid=IwAR2ByoSBWlEt37ASFxVECyudQndC0DL8NRhtvziAWZg1OrMf6iUFNefnS8E#stream/0

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It’s Reunion Season….

Reunion season…I’m looking forward to reading on May 31 with poet/ Barnard classmate Suzanne Noguere and others, at our Barnard reunion, and on June 8, at Wellesley College. Hope to see old friends at Barnard and friends and former students –especially from Wellesley Reunion Classes of 1994,1999, 2004, 2009 & 2014–my Wellesley Reunion reading is on Saturday, June 8th 3:30-4 PM in Pendleton West 001. Q& A and book signing to follow!

Shades at the Reunion

When we gather like this around the table,

every five or ten years, drinks in hand, raising toasts,

in the back of our minds, always, are the ghosts:

The cousin who died at forty, when the cancer flared.

The school friend, gone at barely fifty—she loved her smokes.

Toxins and her genes did her in.

The rest of us—we’ve survived,

though we’re not sure why or how.

My friend the hard-edged newsman

laughed when he told me his on-air transition phrase

“elsewhere in the news”—as if we could

move from tsunami to oil spill to death of an ex-president

with any kind of grace. When he lay dying

in his hospital bed in Croton-on-Hudson

this old journalist stared at tv images of Baltimore burning.

It’s all like it was before, he murmured.

Knowing all this, we sit in the cool air,

September sun on our faces,

hearing the songbirds carry on

like Yeats’ miracles in Byzantium.

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My fourth microchapbook, “In Louisburg, County Mayo, Thinking About Dublin,” is now ready to download

You can download it for free here–and Origami Poems Project will provide easy instructions on how to cut and fold the chapbook.

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“Sugar Pumpkins”

Happy that my poem, “Sugar Pumpkins,” is included in the South Florida Poetry Journal’s new anthology, ” Voices From the Fierce Intangible. In great company–including Denise Duhamel, Lyn Lifshin, Julie Marie Wade,Andrew Glaze, Blaise Allen and so many more!

You can order a copy from SoFloPoJo here: https://www.southfloridapoetryjournal.com/—

Sugar Pumpkins

We grew them in raised beds, their vines profuse,

the orange fruit scant. Hard to grow Cucurbita pepo

In a drought season. Still, the six we found shading themselves

under their companion leaves made us think we might grow

enough to feed ourselves all autumn long. The orange globes

sat on the mantel for months, past Thanksgiving,

when we exiled them to the foyer to make room

for Christmas rosemary and holly branches.

Tonight, we choose the largest sugar pumpkin,

Carve a hole in the top, scrape out the seeds and strings.

In goes the mixture—rice, grapes, walnuts, onion, celery,

enough cumin to give it some heat.

When it’s baked to a turn, we slice it from the center,

So slender arcs of pumpkin fall into a circle, looking

more like a flower than a squash.  It tastes of pie

and of curry, redolent of the summer earth.

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Models

Coreopsis

rudbekia

tradescantia

monarda
— unstoppable, reliable, upstanding citizens of the garden.
No rain? no problem.
They husband their power,
call a halt to blooming,
get into the business of making seeds.

They remind me of our late neighbor

a tall thin fellow in his ninth decade

who rummaged through trash cans

to pluck out a wearable shirt.

He wasted nothing.

~My poem, originally published in *82 Review, now part of the *82 Review Special Pocket Poems issue. Download it for free at http://star82review.com/2019-pocket/contents.html?fbclid=IwAR38aZTAtqHTCiG8ymrgdUbbMR-SGGL7NrGkraYFrsYjKPP8djTPLfaM77Q

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“The end of an era – and a baseball card collection”

… My father-in-law left us two years ago, at age 97. My husband led his siblings in the division of the parental furniture and the disposition of his father’s ashes. He also began weeding our bookshelves and donating many long-unread volumes to the local library book sale.

And then he turned to his baseball card collection….

Read my full essay in today’s online Baltimore Sun.

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Putnam Avenue in Spring

Happy to be in good poetic company in the Spring 2019 issue of Nixes Mates Review. My poem, “Putnam Avenue in Spring” appears here.

Excerpt:

Overnight, melting snow gave way to waves of daffodils
smothering the hill near the Protestant church.
But churches hung in our peripheral vision,
an annoyance, a reminder of what we rejected.
The public library was our church, the holy source where…

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“Charlie on the MTA”…updated?

You may remember this old ditty, popularized by the Kingston Trio back in  1959 and based on a Boston mayoral  campaign song from even earlier, 1949.

The trolleys and buses of Boston are now called the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), and I’m delighted that next month, which is National Poetry Month, my poem will be among other works by Massachusetts poets displayed on placards on MBTA cars.  Here’s a sneak preview:

 

actor_poem2

If you happen to be riding the MBTA next month, remember your Charlie card, and snap a photo of my poem and I’ll post it here.

Did he ever return?
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned.

 

 

 

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The Good Father

This poem was the first one I wrote for Sam Cornish’s poetry workshop at the Boston Public Library several years ago. The following fall, Sam called me up to the front of the room after class had ended  and told me he had submitted “The Good Father” to a juried contest and that it had been chosen for a month-long exhibit at Boston City Hall.

This is the kind of teacher Sam was–generous, encouraging, and always pushing his students to publish and share their work. The poem was later accepted for publication in Grey Sparrow Journal in 2015.

The Good Father

The good father fell asleep on Saturdays
stretched out long on the couch.
Or he hoisted me onto his shoulders
or carried me into the ocean,
keeping a firm grip on me

The good father took me to church
let me play with my white prayer book
with the gold cross hidden in a place inside the cover.

He pointed to the altar in front
when the three bells rang
and the priest held the white circle bread high.

The good father slept in the big bed
on the white sheets with dark blue lines at the edges.
He lay next to my mother, slender, dark-eyed, pale.
Laughter came from their room at night,
and whispers that lulled me to sleep.

He drove us to Florida in the car with three pedals on the floor.
I tried to stand up in the back all the way to Virginia.
Dirty water came out of the hotel’s faucet in Charleston.
We heard the train whistle all night.

He brought me a Charlie McCarthy doll
so I could talk to everyone and not be so shy.
He smelled of aftershave and orange bath soap.
I traced the scar on his forehead with my small hand.

And later, the sad father came to be in our house.
He wore a heavy brace on his leg.
A black steel bar ran up the side of the boot.
He walked with a wooden cane.
Bottles of pills filled the medicine chest.

He was early to bed.
We had to be quiet then.

 

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A Tribute to Baltimore-born poet, the late Sam Cornish

Sam Cornish (1935-2018), Poet Laureate of Boston from 2008-2015, was born and raised in Baltimore, but spent most of his later life in Boston.   Through his teaching at Emerson College, his poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library and other venues, and his ability to be seemingly everywhere where poetry of the people was shared and heard and spoken, Sam was a force of poetry. He encouraged novice writers and journeymenandwomen alike to write and to speak their truth through poetry.

Last Sunday, many of his former colleagues, students and poetry mentees gathered  at New England Mobile Book Fair.  Sam had spent much of his time at the bookstore’s old location helping generations of patrons locate just the books they were on a quest for–often in the vast remainder book section of that book  warehouse of yore.  Six months after his death, we  celebrated his life and work, and the profound influence he had on all of us.

Enormous gratitude to Somerville poet and editor Doug Holder for publishing my poem on  his blog and next week, in the print edition of The Somerville News, whose tagline is “Somerville’s Most Widely read Newspaper!”

You can read my Sam Cornish tribute poem here.

Sam C

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For Valentine’s Day: “Jamaica Plain”

At a grouphouse down the block from the old stables,
a shambles, deserted, derelict, gentrification a long way off—
When the flu had you down for weeks, I figured you lost my number,
You recovered, you relapsed. My friends said he’s not healthy
enough for you. You sent me a ticket for Fenway Park.

I made coffee in my galley kitchen on Sunday morning.
We went to the movies, to a bar, drank a couple of pints,
went to my place, made a frittata with artichokes.
I watched you wash the dishes.

When the door closed behind you I couldn’t believe my luck.
For days I called up that feeling, your hands firm around my lower ribs,
like you were pressing my heart upwards so you might take it.
But it was already stashed in your pocket.

~Lynne Viti

bab-heart-2

Images by Barbara Aronica Buck, copyright 2019

This poem originally appeared in The Thing Itself.

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On City Snow Days Gone By

This essay originally appeared in The Baltimore Sun in 2015. As the snow falls on my street today, I think back to the old neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, and our intrepid sledding down our city street.

The 6600 Block of Hilltop Avenue, Baltimore

I grew up in the 1960s, in a housing development that backed onto a small woods. Until our woods was razed and supplanted by apartment buildings, we used the “forest” to build forts and act out scenes from televisions shows about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. We wore coonskin caps, carried toy rifles and used paper percussion caps to simulate gunfire. In summer, we played baseball in our backyards. Sometimes a fly ball would vault into the woods and get lost. Or a loose foul tip broke a basement window behind the makeshift home plate. There were rivalries: the boys against the girls, the bigger kids against the younger ones. But snow was the great equalizer.

More than two inches meant an official Snow Emergency in Baltimore. All cars were ordered off the major thoroughfares, and sometimes even the smaller residential streets like ours in Northeast Baltimore near the county line. Snow tires weren’t unheard of, but more often, people drove to the local gas station and had chains installed on their tires. Riding in a car with chains was a noisy enterprise at best, and sometimes one of the links would come loose and rap at the wheel cover — we called them hubcaps. Soon the ride sounded like a morning in a noisy Lowell textile mill — crash, clatter, crash, clink, bang.

I don’t remember ever seeing a snowplow come down Hilltop Avenue. Once all the cars were reparked in driveways, some barely clearing the sidewalk. The fins of Chevys, Plymouths and Fords overhung pedestrian territory, and ambitious snow shovels had to navigate around the Detroit behemoths.

No plowing meant that our street, which sloped down from Northern Parkway with a nice angle for sledding, became the children’s territory. We grabbed our Flexible Flyers — no plastic sledding discs or toboggans for us in those days — rubbed the runners with Brillo pads to remove old rust, buffed the metal with waxed paper. We might squirt the steering mechanism with a little oil, check to be sure the old clothes line rope used to pull the sled up the hill was in serviceable condition. We didn’t have ski gear or waterproof pants or parkas. We wore jeans, maybe the kind that were lined with flannel, and our everyday jackets. A lot of us sported blue and white Baltimore Colts bobble hats. Mittens worked better than gloves.

The street was not blocked off for our play. A few parents congregated at the top of the hill near the big parkway, warning intrepid drivers to slow down or wait for a dozen kids to make a sled run down the road of identical semi-detached brick homes. Once the last sledder had careened over the packed snow, hoping to make it almost all the way to the end where our street met Burdick Park, the car’s driver inched down the street. Not one kid wore protective headgear. No one ever suffered more than a bump or bruise. Collisions between sleds were common, but except for a whine or a tear here and there, even the bigger boys and the tougher girls were considerate road-mates, timing their belly flops to avoid the younger kids.

My friend Linda often recalls the common practices of our youth: We rode standing up in the back of the family car so we could see through the windshield and out into the world; our fathers held us on their laps while they clumsily juggled a cigarette and a can of beer; we were left home alone at night from the age of nine or 10, to babysit younger siblings; we had no smoke alarms, and our parents smoked in their bedroom or the bathroom; we went door to door selling Girl Scout cookies, ringing the bells of people outside our neighborhoods, strangers. Our parents taught us how to use our gut senses to back off or flee if things didn’t seem quite right.

On the city street that for a few days became our sledding run, we screamed with joy as we raced, belly down, chin slightly up for visual navigation, hands gripping the Flexible Flyer steering bar. It was pure, intense, unforgettable delight.

Lynne Viti is a lecturer emerita in the writing program at Wellesley College. Her email is lviti@wellesley.edu.