Saturday, December 10, 2022

Red Letter Poem #139

 The Red Letters



In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.


                                                                                                          – Steven Ratiner





Red Letter Poem #139





I just re-read Lynne Viti’s brand-new collection, The Walk to Cefalú (Cornerstone Press) and the word that kept coming to mind was ordinary.  In other contexts, you might think I was being critical of her work, but that’s not at all the case.  What I mean is this: we are presented here with a poet writing about the passage of time: ordinary days, the customary procession of seasons, the unremarkable range of emotions we all find ourselves coping with as we continue placing one foot in front of the other, following where the days lead us.  Her joys tend to be quiet joys – the bounty of relationships, the beauty of the garden, the delights of the kitchen, the fullness of memory – with few pyrotechnics or dramatic flourishes.  And so we instantly believe them; we live them; they deepen what was present in our experience all along.  Her griefs, when they arrive, are ones we all have in common – even as we feel her heart utterly shaken.  I imagine most readers will simply find themselves nodding their heads: yes.  Some poets captivate us by exploring the unfathomable occurrences that cut to the core of existence; or they write with such a bracing and inventive style as to make us rethink the very nature of poetry.  Lynne’s poems let us walk beside her, as if we were one of her circle of intimates; and as she muses aloud about what we are seeing – or slips into her treasure house of remembered moments to pluck one as if it were ripe fruit – we taste what she offers.  Some literary practitioners leave us feeling that our ordinary lives are somehow insufficient, inspiring us perhaps to demand more.  Lynne reminds us that we have hardly scratched the surface of what our days contain; only deeper attention is required of us to sound the depths.


Lynne is faculty emerita in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, and currently serves on the Board of the New England Poetry Club.  The Walk… is her fourth poetry collection.  And when, across whole sections of the book, she delves into the histories of family members – lives she failed to take the true measure of until now – the expression it takes a village came to mind.  It’s a kind of reaffirmation of the complex web of relationships necessary to nurture every single child.  But Lynne teases out a corollary to that concept: later in life, that same child must then contain a village, preserving within one consciousness that interwoven community voices which endures within memory long after its members have vanished from the shared earth. 



At the Yoga Studio



Last to class, I spread my mat on a spot just inside the studio.

I roll off the mat, nudge it away from the stream of cold air

coming in through the space between floor and door


leave my sweatshirt and socks on until we finish neck rolls

until we finish side stretches until we’ve finished pelvic tilts

until we go up in bridge pose


The draft from the hallway no longer concerns me

the frigid air outside the building no longer concerns me

the ache of grief, fresh or old no longer concerns me


I sit in sukhasana and bend forward slowly, deliberately

till I reach my edge I pose and repose

that my nose does not touch my ankles no longer concerns me


When I lie against the wall in viparita karani

when I count the breaths in out I forget that I was late—

here is the place of ease, the place of comfort, of peace


Sitting in my car, I know I should hold on to

that state of not holding on to anything—

not switch on the car radio to grasp news/not check my phone.


Fat snowflakes fall onto my windshield—

The sunless day stirs joy in my heart



    ––Lynne Viti




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