|Linda Baie is hosting today at Teacher Dance!|
This week, I was reading A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAIL, by Lisa Vihos. I picked up her chapbook at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Italy this summer. Lisa and I had been Facebook friends for a few years, but met for the first time in Salerno, greeting one another with a warm hug.
Planting a Memory (for Owen)
by Lisa Vihos
I make us a lunch
for the train ride from
Chicago to Milwaukee.
Granted, it’s a short ride
but it’s lunchtime and we’ll want to eat.
I pack salami, bagels, tangerines,
and a small bag of kalamata olives.
I want you to know this simple pleasure:
olives on the train. How delicious
they taste as we speed past houses and fields.
Olives run in our family, you know.
Our own special comfort food,
tumbling down the Greek
and Italian branches of our family tree;
little dark nuggets of love.
Someday, you’ll be in
wanting to impress a girl.
It’s important that you learn
this sense memory now
so that when you’re standing in the market
outside the train station
you will not hesitate
to buy good olives for her.
You won’t even know why you do this,
but she’ll love you all the more
for spending a little bit extra
on something that tastes so good.
And when you are rushing together
past the lush green fields
and crumbling stone walls
of your Tuscan future,
bite into the rich, dark meat
feel slick oil on your fingers
lick salt from your lips and smile.
In her olive black eyes, there is warmth
and a beckoning road like a train track
vanishing into the distance
connecting you to something
(or someone) that loved you.
Lisa was kind enough to tell me about the genesis of this poem:
I really did pack a lunch for me and my son, to nourish us on a train ride from Chicago to Milwaukee. He was nine years old at the time. While I was on the train, I started thinking about how little things like olives could make a subconscious impression on the mind of a child and I started to write the poem while we were cruising along. He is seventeen now, and I when I read the poem, I still remember exactly what it was like to think about him at some future time, remembering olives on the train with his mother.
Lisa Vihos is the Poetry and Arts Editor at Stoneboat Literary Journal and an occasional guest blogger for The Best American Poetry. Along with two chapbooks, A Brief History of Mail (Pebblebrook Press, 2011) and The Accidental Present (Finishing Line Press, 2012), her poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals. She has two Pushcart Prize nominations and received first place recognition in the 2015 Wisconsin People and Ideas poetry contest for her poem, "Lesson at the Checkpoint." She is active in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change global movement and recently returned home from the group's first world conference in Salerno, Italy. Visit her blog at Frying the Onion.
Lisa has a few copies of A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAIL available for purchase. If you are interested in buying one, please mention it in your comments.
Leaving Home (Poem by Linda Pastan)
Leaving Home, Part 2 (Poem by Sharon Olds)