Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lynne Viti

This evening I'd like to welcome Lynne Viti to The Song Is...  I hope that you will enjoy her poems inspired by music.  I certainly have!

The picture above is of British pop star Kathy Kirby.  However, I like the look of the photograph.  She could be the subject of Lynne's poem.  Interestingly, one of Kathy Kirby's hits was "Secret Love."

Note: “Diva” originally appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine  May 2015


Get up in front of your third grade class,
on a rainy day when everyone’s done the seatwork,
with twenty minutes to kill before  the bell.
Sing Secret Love or
Young and Foolish— unaccompanied.

Bother Mrs. Smith till she lets you sing solo,
What Child Is This in the Christmas concert
in the gym, everyone in white shirts,
the boys in dark pants,
the girls in navy blue skirts,
yours  is a cheap one
from Epstein’s in Highlandtown
because your mother
says you’ll only wear it once,
why spend more money?

Sing the Telephone  Hour from Bye Bye Birdie
at the first assembly in your all-girls school,
Eight  girls in summer uniforms, fists to ears
Crooning into imaginary handsets,
hi Penny, hi Helen, what’s the story?
–on the stage that rises up
from the gym’s polished floorboards.

Then the singing stops, at least in public.
Singing in the shower doesn’t count, nor does
singing at rallies, ain't nobody goin to turn me round
where have all the flowers gone,  one, two three,
what’re we fightin for, don’t ask me.

In the car on the way home from the play,
slaphappy and tired, sing the Marseillaise,
Sing show tunes, that was a real nice clambake,
At home, sing Surabaya Johnny  along with Bette Midler
On the stereo, the last record on repeat, repeat.

When the babies come, sing old Beatle songs, sing Sinatra,
It happened in Monterey a long time ago, sing Girl Scout tunes,
I’m happy  when I’m hiking, baby’s boat’s a silver moon,
sing Raffi, Rosenshontz, can you tell me how to get,
how to get to Sesame Street.

Now it’s quiet in the house. Everyone’s
out or has moved away. Leave the radio off,
keep the Ipod silent. Sing
whatever you please.

Harp Music

He said you haven’t really lived
till you get a death threat
from a guy with a cell phone
just over the state line, someone who
maybe read about my work,
found it sinful, against his principles,
shaking the foundations of
whatever it is he calls his religion
or ideology. But I felt 
much better when the cops 
paid him a visit, and he faded away.

With you, it was the phone calls
from a harpist, slight and pale,
ebony-haired, tearful.
She looked at you across the wide desk 
covered with case files, foolscap pads,
ball point pens. She told you 
her  father had died and her husband had left, wanted
nothing more to do with her. You
counseled her to mediate.

When she got home, she phoned the office
for hours, starting at midnight, 
careening along into dawn.
Twenty-five messages on the tape
each more high-pitched and insistent
her voice growing hoarser each time
letting you know just what miseries
she’d  visit on you. And yes, she knew
you had children, and she had them, too
in her sights.

A couple drinks later, you stood
behind home plate 
at your son’s little league game,
trying to forget about it,
wondering what she thought when
the police showed up at the door,
hauled her away to the cold hospital room.
You told someone the story, then told
Someone else
hoping it would amuse.

The police said not to worry.
Her psychiatrist said it’s just disordered thinking
Nothing more. But she wouldn’t
give  blood samples, 
take meds, insisted
 the judge come to the hospital,
where she  sat, docile, polite,
hands folded, refusing treatment.

Wait another ten years, your friend said,
pointing to the ball her son knocked
out of the park into the woods.
You’ll laugh about it, you’ll see.

Months, perhaps years later
you chanced to see her
on stage with her instrument, 
stroking the harp so gently,
pulling sweet tones from the strings,
steel core with wire wrap.

You glanced down at the program
Ran your thumbnail under her name,
Wondered that she found her way back
from four point restraints,
soft, padded, leaving no marks.

She’s better now, you thought,
Settling back in your seat,
Closing your eyes, fighting hard
to let the music engulf you. 

This picture doesn't quite go with Lynne's poem, but it is very sweet.  

I Can’t Get No

Satisfaction, we danced in the basement to the Stones. 
Your mother introduced us to her boyfriend.
They sat upstairs drinking iced tea.
The August night was humid,
The lightning bugs were already out dancing
Across the wide lawns.
You’d survived a year of college.

I’d  slimmed down, in preparation for it.
I grew my hair long.
pinned it up into a French chignon
Trying to look like a girl in a Truffaut flick,
You were the only one who noticed

No satisfaction, no satisfaction.
You danced with everyone at your party
Beach boys or Stones or Smokey
Robinson and his Miracles

You kept your hair short, close
To your head. You still favored the
Madras shirts, khaki pants, 
Boat shoes, no socks, you were
the preppiest guy I knew

I never saw anyone who
Could dance like you so abandoned,
it could be Mersey sound, blues beat, r&b.
You were an equal opportunity 
Music loving dance machine

At midnight when I knew I had
To collect my girlfriend and get on home
Though I wanted to stay and dance on with you
I threw my arms around you
Turned my cheek so my ear
Was up against your clavicle
You were breathless, smelling of 
Lark cigarettes and soap

Call me tomorrow, you said.
I walked up the stairs to your mother’s kitchen
I drove across the city in my father’s Chevy
To my part of town.

My hair had come unpinned.
I slipped into my nightgown
Washed my face. I felt so lucky
You were my friend,
One who asked so little,
Who made me laugh and shared
His cigarettes and his scotch with me
His fake cynicism and his jokes.

You were never my boyfriend,
Never my lover. You were
The companion  who years later
left me a poem
Handwritten but rolled
Into my old typewriter, 
Blue-black ink, corrasable bond.

Lynne Viti teaches in  the Writing Program at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She  writes  about law, television, gardening, yoga, and anything else that comes into her vision field, and has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She blogs at 

This might be a good evening to include links to some 1960s songs, starting with Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man."

She also covered "Another Piece of My Heart":

Dusty's version is different from Janis', but I hope you'll enjoy it.

Another song that Dusty covered was the Byrds' "Wasn't Born to Follow."  It's not a dance song, though.

I'll finish with her "Just One Smile," a song by Randy Newman:

I could post many more songs.  Perhaps another time!

No comments:

Post a Comment