April 12, 2016

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poetry Friday: Leaving Home, Part 3

Before you do anything else, Dear Readers, go check out this First Chapters Critique Giveaway. 

Linda Baie is hosting today at Teacher Dance!
As the mom of a new college student, I keep finding poems that speak to parent-child relationships, especially the moment of leaving home.

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.

Lisa Vihos
Lisa is a fine poet, educator, and community organizer. So much about the poem I am sharing today speaks to me: the olives, memories of Italy, and how we create experiences for our children, never knowing how or when they might draw on these memories as they grow into adulthood.

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 Tuscany
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

For a companion poem (more olives! more travel!) check out Poetry Friday blogger Joyce Ray's "In Search of Athena" here:

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAIL is available for purchase from Pebblebrook Press. If you are interested in buying one, please follow the link or mention it in your comments.

In this series:

Leaving Home (Poem by Linda Pastan)
Leaving Home, Part 2 (Poem by Sharon Olds)


Linda B said...

Poems like this one by touch me so much, Laura. I know that all those tiny experiences mean that the world for our children has just expanded a little, without them knowing. I'd love to purchase one of Lisa's books, A Brief History of Mail. If necessary you can share my e-mail. Thanks for this "taste of olives".

jan godown annino said...

Laura, hello.
Appreciations for this introduction to a poet new to me.
Yes, I want to purchase Linda Pastan's chapbook. The cover alone grabs me - title & photograph. I am a papermailaholic. I realize the eyedears in it will travel out from that concept, but I'm sold. I think you have my email? Please share or send me the way to obtain it.

As for this tasty & a bit wistful poem, "Leaving Home," I especially am drawn to "little dark nuggets of love." It reminds me of a poem "Moments" by Velma Frye, who wrote it as a song as she is a performing musician. She writes 'we live for moments' & those perfect olives she packed for the brief train trip are a moment now we can all savor.

Lastly, the Tuscan scenery & Italian train stations & of course the foods of Italy speak to me, having been fortunate to marry into an all-Italian (noto, sicily homebase) familia.


Author Amok said...

Thanks, Linda and Jan. I appreciate the comments and I know that Lisa will too. I'm updating with a link to purchase the chapbook, but will also send you both an email.

Irene Latham said...

Laura, thank you for sharing Lisa's lovely work. I don't think I will ever tire of motherhood poems -- and to think Sharon Olds was criticized when she first started writing them!

Joyce Ray said...

I can't thank you enough for sharing Lisa's wonderful poem, Laura. I love her ability to link everyday events to one's past and even future. The sensory details of the lunch, the olives, bring the reader right into the moment. I am especially touched as I had the experience of writing as I traveled to Greece this summer, and olives worked their way into the poem before I even began to enjoy them in my grandfather's homeland. I'm very interested in Lisa's chapbook and the fact that there was a global conference for 100 Thousand Poets for Change!

jama said...

What a beautiful poem. So nice to be introduced to Lisa's work!

Diane Mayr said...

My favorite recipe, and the world's easiest to make, involves olives. Shredded Swiss cheese, sliced green olives with pimentos, barely moistened with a basic vinaigrette. Sounds odd, but delicious! I'm a fan of olives and enjoyed Lisa's poem very much.

Carol Varsalona said...

Laura, thank you for the introduction to a new poet for me. The poem created is a fine example of a stellar small moment that will be immortalized forever. Olives are one of my family's favorites.

Buffy Silverman said...

I think our subconsciouses lead us to read about certain topics during major life changes. I'm glad you've found some good leaving home poems--love the idea of planting olive memories!

Lisa Vihos said...

Thank you all for these wonderfully kind words. And thank you, Laura, for posting this poem today. I am honored to be in good company here. I'm so glad you all enjoyed this poem. Olives are definitely a good thing. Enjoy them with friends and family often!

Tabatha said...

I enjoyed Lisa's juicy word choices (and, of course, children growing up is always of interest)! I am not an olive eater, but you don't have to be to appreciate the sentiment here.

Mary Lee said...

I've never had to say goodbye to a child, but now I'm hungry for olives and a train ride!

Bridget Magee said...

I love the line: "little dark nuggets of love." Lisa's poem is a "nugget of love" as well. Thanks for the introduction to her work, Laura. =)

Anonymous said...

Nice read, i agree with the others it does make me hungry :-)

jan godown annino said...

The link works well - thanks.
And now I think I'm going to crack open our saved jar
of prime Sicilian olives.