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Lynne Viti


Weeding the Bittersweet

by Lynne Viti


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.
We’d find crisp yellow bits in our sweaters.

We didn’t know it would take over, strangling
the sacred blueberry bushes along country lanes,
digging deep into maple saplings. So insidious,
this woody invader, and overnight—or was
it decades?—claimed territory, and more again.

Today, I’d had enough.
Armed with clippers, gloves,
Twine and saw,
I pulled, dug, cut,
separating
harmless branch from berry-laden twigs,
pulled
up the stuff by the roots,
yanked it down
from struggling small trees
freed blueberry shrubs
Invited bearberry and young oaks in freed-up space.

Tomorrow for this interloper, it’s the trash.
You fooled us into thinking your orange and yellow
was harmless, was innocent.
We twisted your vines into November wreaths,
hung them on doors, brightened our winter tables
against nights that arrived earlier in our march
towards the shortest day.




Shades at the Reunion

by Lynne Viti


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 teamed up to do her in.
The rest of us—we’ve survived so far, though we’re not sure why
or how. We dare not probe.

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.




Nickel Dreams

by Lynne Viti


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.




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