Our Mothers: The poetry of Lynne Viti and Heather Corbally Bryant

By Lynne Viti

Rene and Marcella

They never met, of course, your mother and mine.
All the same, they might’ve shared a drink
at the Plaza in New York or the Hopkins Club
in my hometown, Baltimore. Your mother the novelist,
the editor, at ease in Cambridge, making her way
through the Yard at dusk, with her smart leather shoulder bag
and one of those green drawstring sacs
all the Harvard folk carried. Your mother’s would’ve been
full of manuscripts to check and the New Yorker.
She’d have worn a smart wool coat nipped in at the waist,
navy, if that was the color that year.
My mother never saw Boston till I was sixteen.
She thought of it as a distant Northern city, never
gave it much thought until Jack Kennedy won
the nomination when she was forty-eight.  She
wore schoolteacher clothes, put on sensible shoes
for the school day. She favored Eisenhower jackets and full skirts.
She smoked Kents and carried a big purse, never
a bookbag. Her pupils’ tests and her lesson plans
were stacked up on the dining room table, the gradebook
at the bottom of the pile. Her handwriting was perfect.
If they’d met, our mothers might’ve chatted about
the Chesterfield coats popping up in the stores,
rather mannish, they might’ve said,
no feminine lines like the Dior New Look
that came in right after the War. They might’ve liked the new
driving gloves, the small opening at the palm, snaps at the wrist.
They’d compare notes, say raising a daughter was
always a challenge, but they had such hopes for us.
They’d lean back in their cushioned chairs, cross their legs,
check their hose for ladders, and seeing none,
lift their daiquiri glasses gracefully, saying,
Here’s looking at you, kid.

 

By Heather Corbally Bryant

Our Mothers

For Marcella and Rene

Our mothers, we think, would have liked one another,
An unlikely pair, Marcella and Rene, though not really—

Over Camels and sherry, later only the sherry, they would
Have remarked on their doctor’s elegance—how rare to

Have a woman doctor, and a well-dressed one too—it
Could take me over an hour to find out what my mother’s

Doctor had said about her obstructive lung disease, instead
Of learning that she was wearing elegant black pumps,

Definitely by Armani—my mother liked that her doctor didn’t
Wear a white coat, your mother would have liked that too—

But both Rene and Marcella, I would venture to guess, would
Have been wearing short pearls and suit coats tucked in at

The waist, to show their svelte curves, so carefully maintained—
They would have leaned in, over topped off sherries, filled with

Happiness that their daughters had become such good friends.


Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She is the author of a  chapbook, Baltimore Girls ( Finishing Line Press 2017)  and  a microchapbook, Punting, (Origami Poems Project 2018). Her second chapbook, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in May, and may be preordered from Finishing Line Press. She has also published most recently in  The End of 83, I Come From The World, Lost Sparrow, Pen-in- Hand, Light, The South Florida Poetry Journal, Tin Lunchbox. She blogs at  stillinschool.wordpress.com.


Heather Corbally Bryant teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College.  She received her A.B. from Harvard, her PhD from the University of Michigan. She has given poetry readings at many universities and bookstores in the United States and also in Ireland. She published How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War,” (University of Michigan Press, 1992). She also has published six books of poetry: Cheap Grace, Finishing Line Press, (2011); Lottery Ticket, Parallel Press Poetry Series of the University of Wisconsin Libraries (2013); Compass Rose, Finishing Line Press (2016). My Wedding Dress, her first full-length volume of poetry, (2016)  Thunderstorm, (2017) and Eve’s Lament, just published from the Finishing Line Press (2018). You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper, a work of creative nonfiction about Shanghai in the 1920’s, will appear later in 2018.

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